Originally promoted in a prospectus dated 8 September 1854 by the Cooke brothers operating under the business name of Messrs. Francis Cooke and Co., General Merchants and Stock Owners, the Age was forty-eight hours from closure before the end of the year. This was avoided by compositors and other staff and supporters banding together to form a co-operative. This arrangement continued until 6 June 1856 when the chief editor Ebenezer Syme bought the paper at auction and became its sole proprietor. (In his biography of David Syme, Ambrose Pratt suggests that the Age was saved from an even earlier closure by its sympathetic coverage of the events at the Eureka Stockade.)
At Ebenezer Syme's death, his brother David Syme took control of the newspaper until his own death in 1908. David Syme left the Age to his wife and sons in trust.