Apartment developer Harry Triguboff is strikingly open about a lot of things. At an American Chamber of Commerce address in late 2011, for example, he told an amused audience about the methods he uses to avoid paying taxes.
But the billionaire founder of Meriton is less candid about succession. Triguboff turned 80 this month, and within days he announced he had made his biggest-ever land acquisition – a $100 million site in Mascot that could yield 1000 apartments over more than four years. Clearly Australia’s seventh-richest person has no plans to slow down.
“I have no succession,” he says bluntly. “If you give it to your direct successor like your daughter, they’re already over the hill. You’ve got to give it to the ones who come later so they’re a bit fresh. I think that’s the way God is guiding me, [but] I don’t know.”
Triguboff says he is considering his grandchildren. His granddaughter, Ella Lankry, is the company’s public relations expert but the others are still at university.
“They will be finishing in a year’s time. We shall see how they perform,” Triguboff says. “What I do is from time to time I give my children and grandchildren some properties. It’s in their name. So whatever happens to me at least they will have their own property.”
Meriton’s building pipeline is fatter than ever. In Queensland, about 60 floors have been completed on an 82-storey apartment tower in Brisbane’s CBD. It will be the city’s tallest residential tower. Triguboff says he first decided to buy the site because the street name is the same as his – Herschel. He also owns a site in Southport, on the Gold Coast, but is waiting until prices rise before building.
In Sydney, he plans to build 600 apartments at Warriewood, on the northern beaches, and is finishing off a 300-apartment development in St Ives. Further west, at Macquarie Park, a 500-apartment building is half-finished, and he has another 400 to build at the old Channel 7 site in nearby Epping. At Homebush, he will build 300 apartments, in Lewisham (500), Chatswood (700), and in Parramatta (600) at the old David Jones site. Near the Sydney airport, assorted sites in Mascot and Zetland will yield about another 2500.
“Off the top of my head, I would say we have about 8000 to build,” Triguboff says. “The market is very good. I’ve never had so much land. And I have 5000 apartments that I am leasing, serviced and other, which I didn’t have before.”
Clearly, times are good.
Some are wondering whether Triguboff might list Meriton. He doesn’t rule it out. But he denies recent speculation he was considering joining hands with Stockland, saying he has never talked to it.
“They’re a lovely company, but they have a different culture,” Triguboff says. “The problem with Meriton is we have never been really involved with others, we have got our own way. We have some difficulties combining with someone else.
“The only good thing about listing would be it would help with income tax,” he says. “But it’s still too early. Plenty of time ahead.”