- BRW Lists
The downturn in bricks and mortar retailing has chipped only a little off the wealth of the “other” shopping mall king, John Gandel, but it may have been enough to adjust his corporate strategy. In a rare interview in April, he took the federal government to task over the carbon tax and its insistence on a budget surplus, both of which threaten to take more money out of consumers’ pockets. The poor sentiment towards traditional retailing has done damage to the share prices of the CFS Retail Property Trust and Charter Hall Group, of which his Gandel Group owns about 25 per cent and 16.5 per cent respectively. Gandel has shopkeeping in his blood. In the 1950s, he began managing the Sussan women’s clothing chain, which his Polish immigrant parents had established in 1938. When he sold his half-share in Sussan to brother-in-law Marc Besen (see Besen family entry) in 1983, Gandel turned his attention to property. Having sold out of a portfolio of retirement villages, shopping centres have become his primary focus, the jewel in the crown being Australia’s largest mall, Chadstone, in Melbourne’s south-east. Earlier this year, Gandel emerged as the likely buyer of the Gold Coast’s biggest retail centre, Centro Surfers Paradise. He certainly has the cash for it, after netting $445 million from the sale of his 50 per cent stake in Melbourne’s Northland shopping centre to the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board last June. He seems to have no intention to retire. His poaching of Macquarie Bank’s North American property hot-shot, Kylie Rampa, to run the Gandel Group was seen by many as signalling a new phase of acquisitive aggression for one of the country’s smartest property investors.