Robert"s grandfather Alfred Gerard established the Clipsal brand in Adelaide in 1920. Under the nearly 50 years of leadership by Geoff Gerard (Alfred"s son and Robert"s father), the business made several manufacturing breakthroughs and expanded. Robert Gerard took over leadership in 1976, and expanded the business throughout Australia and South-east Asia, and into Hong Kong, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Russia.
By 2003, Gerard Industries was 50:50 owned by the Gerard family and the Singapore-listed Clipsal Industries Holdings (CIH).
lieutenant was also still involved in a 14-year dispute with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
Requiring funds to "repay debt, build new businesses and let the Clipsal brand grow globally", in 2004 the Gerard family "opted to sell its stake to the French company Schneider Electric, as a sharemarket float did not look an attractive option".
The family has retained control of "a raft of other businesses accumulated over the years".