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Swimming legend Grant Hackett turns his life around to steer his investment firm through coronavirus

Grant Hackett’s investment firm had a stellar year despite admitting to some ‘panic’ when the coronavirus pandemic devastated financial markets.

The former Olympic swimming champion took over as chief executive of Generation Life in January, having worked at the company since 2017.

His professional fortunes are a remarkable turnaround from a decade of turmoil including a messy split with his ex-wife and four meltdowns in six years. 

Hackett, 40, oversaw a record 42 per cent increase in investment in the firm to $90 million for the April to June quarter compared to the same time last year.

 Grant Hackett’s investment firm had a stellar year despite admitting to some ‘panic’ when the coronavirus pandemic devastated financial markets

Hackett won gold medals in the men's 1,500m freestyle swimming events in both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics

Hackett won gold medals in the men’s 1,500m freestyle swimming events in both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics

Generation Life’s investment growth also tripled compared to last year, putting the value of the funds it manages at almost $1.3 billion.

‘We are extremely proud to record an all-time company record of $90 million for quarterly inflows demonstrating the increasing support for Investment Bonds and the innovative solutions we provide,’ Hackett said in the firm’s ASX announcement.

‘Our business responded proactively and professionally to the rapid change in operating conditions due to covid-19 to ensure we maintained exceptional support to our financial advisers and investors.’

Hackett had to navigate market panic in March when coronavirus arrived in Australia in force, but managed to weather the storm better than many other firms.

The gold medallist had an even better start to 2020 when his son Eddie with fiancée Sharlene Fletcher, 35, was born in January.

Hackett had a great start to 2020 when his son Eddie with fiancée Sharlene Fletcher, 35, was born in January

 Hackett had a great start to 2020 when his son Eddie with fiancée Sharlene Fletcher, 35, was born in January

He and Ms Fletcher got engaged in October after two years together and are planning a small coronavirus-friendly wedding later this year.

Family and firm keep him ferociously busy with his day starting with a 5.50am workout (he runs 70km a week).

Then he works a 16-hour day managing Generation Life’s 70 staff before returning home to help take care of little Eddie.

Hackett’s 2020 life was not what anyone would have predicted just three years ago when he went missing for days after a fight with his family.

His disappearance after an argument with his father and a punch-up with his brother saw his family begging him to come home on TV in fear of his safety.

‘He’s a danger to himself… we’ve reached the end of the road,’ his brother Craig said at the time.

‘This is a completely different person. He’s there in body, but he’s not there in mind, soul or spirit.’ 

Hackett suffered a black eye and broken jaw in the fight, posting a photo of his injuries on social media.

Hackett has 10-year-old twins to his first wife Candice Alley (pictured at the 2010 Melbourne Cup) before the marriage ended dramatically in 2012

Hackett has 10-year-old twins to his first wife Candice Alley (pictured at the 2010 Melbourne Cup) before the marriage ended dramatically in 2012

In February 2017, embattled swimming star Grant Hackett (pictured) accused his brother of beating him up in a social media post which read: 'My brother comments to the media... but does anyone know he beat the s**t out of me'

In February 2017, embattled swimming star Grant Hackett (pictured) accused his brother of beating him up in a social media post which read: ‘My brother comments to the media… but does anyone know he beat the s**t out of me’

The episode followed years of alcoholism and sleeping pill addiction amid a bitter custody battle with his then-wife Candice Alley.

Fuelled by alcohol in 2011, Hackett trashed the Melbourne apartment he shared with singer Ms Alley.

She and their two children were not in the apartment at the time, but Hackett’s then-wife accused him of targeting her most-treasured items – which included her piano and some framed photographs.

‘The reality was [the marriage] wasn’t going well and I kept those cards really close to my chest and I just wasn’t dealing with it, wasn’t dealing with it well at all,’ he told reporters at the time.

In 2014 he was seen wandering disoriented around Crown Casino wearing only a singlet tied around his waist after his son wandered away from their hotel room. 

It all came to a head when the former Olympic swimming champion was arrested at his parents house in February 2017. He's pictured in the back of the police car following his arrest

It all came to a head when the former Olympic swimming champion was arrested at his parents house in February 2017. He’s pictured in the back of the police car following his arrest

Hackett was spotted wandering round Melbourne's Crown casino half-naked (pictured) in February 2014 after taking the sleeping pill Stilnox

Hackett was spotted wandering round Melbourne’s Crown casino half-naked (pictured) in February 2014 after taking the sleeping pill Stilnox

Hackett (pictured right at Melbourne Airport) was accused of 'tweaking' a fellow plane passenger's nipple during a Virgin Australia flight from Adelaide in April 2016

Hackett (pictured right at Melbourne Airport) was accused of ‘tweaking’ a fellow plane passenger’s nipple during a Virgin Australia flight from Adelaide in April 2016

After a failed swimming comeback, he was arrested in April 2016 accused of tweaking the nipples of a male passenger on a Virgin flight.

He later apologised and admitted to drinking half a bottle of gin before the flight. 

The saga with his family followed less than a year later in February 2017, but led to him checking himself into rehab in California.

His stint there was a turning point and moths later Generation Development Group boss Rob Coombe gave him a second chance.

Hackett boasts 12 years’ experience in senior marketing, distribution and wealth-management positions for Westpac and the BT Financial Group.

He also holds an executive Master of Business Administration and diplomas in Business Law and Financial Services.

Hackett boasts 12 years' experience in senior marketing, distribution and wealth-management positions for Westpac and the BT Financial Group

Hackett boasts 12 years’ experience in senior marketing, distribution and wealth-management positions for Westpac and the BT Financial Group

These qualifications had fallen by the wayside in his years at the bottom of a bottle, but sales in his division grew more than 70 per cent in his first year.

‘I’d spent a lot of time with him before bringing him into the business to make sure his head was in the right place, that he was getting professional help, that he had a plan to overcome the issues that he’d had before,’ Coombe said in 2018.  

‘If you’re going to take the risk you need to be convinced that the person understood why they made the mistakes, and they’ve got a plan in place to actually deal with that.’ 

Hackett won gold medals in the men’s 1,500m freestyle swimming events in both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.

He held several world records at the time and is considered one of the best ever long distance swimmers.

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