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Property still doesn’t hold that much appeal for billionaire investment guru Kerr Neilson

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 According to a character in David Williamson‘s Emerald City, the problem with Sydney people is that they know the meaning of life: waterfront real estate.

Apparently Platinum Asset Management’s founder, Kerr Neilson, thinks otherwise, leaving as the underbidder for the 4 West Crescent Street, McMahons Point on Saturday.

Kerr Neilson at the Morning Star Conference in 2016. Kerr Neilson at the Morning Star Conference in 2016. Photo: Louie Douvis

Maybe the property bubble has only reinforced his views – as shared with his clients in 2014 – that shares are a better bet than property and “to be optimistic about residential property prices rising in general much faster than inflation is a supreme act of faith”.

It’s the sort of mistake you can stomach when you’re already a billionaire. 

“Today, houses cost over four times the average household’s yearly disposable income. At the beginning of the 1990s, this ratio was only about three times household incomes … this looks like the peak,” said Neilson back in 2014. 

Houses now cost more than six times an average household’s yearly disposable income, and yes, it looks like the peak.  

Back to Saturday. The modest 1941 two-bedroom, one-bathroom house he missed out on comes with the massive but dilapidated boatshed and slip where our second America’s Cup challenger, Dame Pattie, was built in 1967 by the vendor, centenarian Bill Barnett.

Four bidders came down to two, Neilson’s final effort $8.25 million.

It sold for $8.3 million with perhaps nearly as much to come to repair and renovate the pier, shed and slipway and then build a fitting new family home on the tricky site.

Ten Larrikins 

As Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon do their best to gazump the CBS rescue deal for Network Ten it pays to remember that the legal arena has provided some happy moments for the broadcaster. 

Most people missed it, but there was a modest reference in Ten’s half year accounts earlier this year to a legal settlement which yielded $1.255 million payment for the cash-strapped broadcaster. 

Ten said it settled legal proceedings brought by the company for enforcement of a completion guarantee relating to non-delivery of television program rights, which were written off in 2014.

Ten brought the action against Centriq Insurance, which provided the Completion Guarantee, but the trouble belonged to a far more colourful source: Melbourne businessman Leigh O’Brien who brought Australia the real life Ettamogah pubs and was meant to provide Ten with the children’s television series Li’l Larrikins

According to the court documents, O’Brien’s companies were meant to deliver 26 episodes between 31 July 2009 and 25 June 2010 for an agreed budget of $10.375 million.

This was all to be delivered from O’Brien’s state-of-the-art animation studio opened in 2008. Alarm bells should have been ringing when The Age reported in 2009 that workers at the studio complained of unpaid wages. This was around the same time that production was meant to be under way on the TV series for Ten.

“Production difficulties occurred almost immediately, with resulting delays,” reports the court documents. 

“The O’Brien group of companies also suffered severe financial difficulties which Mr O’Brien attributed to the global financial crisis. These resulted in the collapse of the project in late 2010.”

Ten had paid $1.86 million, and received three episodes. As its accounts reported, it successfully recovered most of this amount from Centriq. 

The media caught up with O’Brien in 2011when he was heading to the wall with liquidators appointed to his companies, including Ettamogah Entertainment, which ran the animation studio.

That year an application was also made to wind up the operator of four Ettamogah theme pubs. 

The know that O’Brien survived this near financial death experience because in April this year he closed one of the troubled Ettamogah Pub in Albury after a dispute with the local operator.  

Overbaked   

CBD thought it was we should highlight a seminar being held by Baker McKenzie this week for all those unfortunate souls who have been maligned in this column. 

It is titled “When your employment dirty laundry is put on trial by the media”. 

The flyer features a bedraggled looking white male executive holding up a newspaper with headlines such as: Underpays his staff, sacks whistleblowers, won’t promote women, conducts unsafe work practices.

And it asks the question, is it news? Is it ethical? Can you stop it? 

Um, are they asking if it is ethical for journalists to report the above transgressions? 

According to the law firm, the seminar offers a “panoramic review by a panel of leading experts of legal and communications strategies to deal with adverse media attention on your workplace issues”.

How about not sacking whistleblowers, or underpaying staff for starters.   

CBD can think of many executives who would benefit from this seminar but will decline to name names for now. 

Follow CBD on Twitter. Got a tip? ckruger@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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