Sir Arvi served as chairman of the BHP board from May 1989 to May 1992. At one point during his long career, he was concurrently chairman of three of Australia's largest companies, Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals, (1978 to 1996) Munich Re, and Zurich Australian Insurance. Sir Arvi was made a Knight Bachelor for services to industry in 1978.
In recognising Sir Arvi’s many years of service, Angus Armour, Managing Director and CEO of the AICD, paid tribute to his legacy. “Sir Arvi joined the Institute in 1975 and showed a lifelong commitment and dedication to good governance and supporting the director community. He was made a Life Fellow of the AICD in 1999 to recognise these significant contributions.”
Born in Estonia in 1926, he fled ahead of the Russian occupation in 1944, ending up in a refugee camp in Germany. In 1946, he began to study mining engineering at the Clausthal Mining Academy, but through vacation work at local mines, he saw that the opportunities in Germany were limited and emigrated to Australia in 1949.
Move to Australia
Sir Arvi studied at the University of Adelaide in 1951 towards a Bachelor of Engineering degree and joined the Western Mining Corporation (WMC) in 1956. In 1971, Sir Arvi was appointed WMC’s MD at the age of 45 and in 1974 he took on role of chairman as well. (BHP acquired Western Mining in 2005.) In 1978, he also became chairman of Alcoa Australia.
In 1983, Sir Arvi was elected the inaugural president of the Business Council of Australia, after the organisation was formed to represent the interests of Australia’s larger companies.
Sir Arvi was awarded numerous honours outside his field, including five honorary Doctor of Science degrees, the Ian Storey Medal by the Australian Institute of Management in 1984, the Melbourne University Graduate School of Management Award in 1985, and Fellow of The Royal Society of Victoria. He served as President of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, and ex-officio member of the Prime Minister’s Science and Engineering Council. In June 1993, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia.
Sir Arvi died at his home in Melbourne on May 1 2019 and is survived by his wife Saima. They have three children: Ellen, Peter and Martin, and six grandchildren.