Born in Queenscliff in 1859, William Lawrence Baillieu rose from a humble background to become a successful auctioneer during Melbourne's feverish land boom of the 1880s. He quickly built a large fortune, only to lose it all in the crash of the early 1890s. Ever the astute and daring entrepreneur, he resurrected his fortunes, and those of his family, beginning with real estate, share trading and gold mining and going on to build Australia's greatest diversified business empire. Working closely with Herbert Hoover and WS Robinson, Baillieu had the vision and leadership to pioneer minerals flotation processes that revived the fortunes of Broken Hill. He founded the the Collins House group, which dominated Australian mining, metals processing and manufacturing in the first half of the 20th century and was the creative genius behind the rise of such companies as Rio Tinto, the Herald & Weekly Times, Electrolytic Zinc, Dunlop, and Carlton & United Breweries. In the first two decades of federation, ‘Big Bill' Baillieu was a major figure in Victorian politics, being widely believed to be ‘the puppet master who pulled the strings' behind every state ministry. He was also highly influential at the federal level, playing a central role in the establishment of the Nationalist government led by Billy Hughes in early 1917. As a builder of businesses and constructor of new industries, WL Baillieu left a profound and lasting imprint on the development of Australia. Peter Yule's biography is the first ever of this significant Australian, the founder of the Baillieu family dynasty, and arguably the most important individual in the growth of the modern Australian economy.