Former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke has praised disgraced tycoon Alan Bond, describing him as an "outstanding Australian".

Mr Bond was jailed in the 1990s for what was described as Australia's biggest corporate fraud, with many small investors losing money.

For a time he was the nation's largest brewer: he won the America's Cup, and set up Australia's first privately funded university.

Mr Bond has recently returned to the nation's boardrooms after a long absence.

In an extended interview to mark the 30th anniversary of Mr Bond's famous win against the US in the America's Cup yacht race, Mr Hawke acknowledged the contribution of the 74-year-old.

At the time of the win, Mr Hawke was the newly elected prime minister, and he memorably described as a "bum" any boss who sacked anyone for not going to work on the day of the spontaneous victory celebrations around the nation.

The interview with Mr Hawke is included in a two-part Australian Story program on the Cup commencing tonight.

"I think Alan Bond is owed a great deal of gratitude by the Australian people. The way he helped to lift the Australian spirit as a result of that great historic victory of 1983 was great for our country," Mr Hawke said.

"May I say by way of postscript, while he served and was found guilty appropriately I like the way he faced up. He didn't, like others, try to run away. He was a model prisoner.

"He tried to run education programs for his fellow prisoners. I think in many ways he's been an outstanding Australian."

Mr Bond was declared bankrupt in 1992. In 1997, he served four years in prison for defrauding $1.2 billion from his then publicly listed Bell Group.

He was bankrupted for $622 million, which still stands as the second-largest personal bankruptcy in history.

After a 19-year absence from the nation's rich list, Mr Bond resurfaced in 2008 with a personal fortune estimated to be worth $265 million.

- Part one of goes to air tonight at 8:00pm on ABC1.

 

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