My life, my way, my pubs

The entrepreneur behind Pubboy, Mark Alexander-Erber, is living the Aussie blokes’ dream: he owns a dozen pubs.

By Amanda Gome

Mark Alexander-Erber, 39 and pictured right, is living out the fantasy of many Aussie blokes. He owns his own pubs – about 12, in fact.

But what differentiates him from other pub owners in Australia is his brash, flamboyant branding, sales and marketing … and his wealth. Alexander-Erber was on the BRW Young Rich with $18.5 million last year. Revenue of his Pubboy is $20–30 million and he aims to get it to $60 million by the time he floats in 18 months’ time.

Here is his story:

“The way to build a business – any business – is to get the word out in any way possible.

“When I started Pubboy in 1996, I got a copy of the BRW Rich 200 , underlined some names and sent a fridge full of Pubboy beer, suggesting to people that I meet them. Some replied, like Rene Rivkin. Others ignored me and I thought, ‘Well stuff you. I don’t want to meet you anyway’.

“I always knew the importance of marketing, even though I never did a marketing degree. At 18, I went to catering college and then worked at the Regent, starting as a waiter. People used to call out ‘Pubboy’, which is where I got the name.

“In 1996 I used money from friends and savings to help buy the lease of the Iron Duke Hotel in Alexandria Sydney for about $135,000 and branded it Pubboy. You need lots of sources of income to run pubs, not just one, so I turned it into an alternative live music venue. At my other pubs I run theme nights.

“I sold that pub later for $380,000. When I get a pub, I rebrand it Pubboy then I paint it, put the staff in uniforms and talk to them about getting the right attitude, serve great beer through clean lines – and in clean glasses. I did this to the Aberdare Hotel in Weston in the Hunter Valley and turnover doubled in two months.

“I brand everything Pubboy: the coasters, the glasses, the beer, cars, number plates, billboards, T-shirts, wine, water, bar essentials… I put Pubboy stickers on everything and want to sell it all through stores. I once bought a pub in a country town and I ran a competition: If they bring in an ad from the Yellow Pages for all the competitor pubs around I’d give them a free beer. Word spread and there might have been a pub up the road but no one knew about it.

“I have just launched Pubboy Working Class Tomato Sauce. At present I am looking at a deal to license beer overseas in China but it’s difficult. You get ripped off.

“I’ve developed a working-class image even though I grew up in Vaucluse. I have tats, a bald head and in every publicity shot I am sitting on a Harley. Yes, the tough image helps with the Pubboy branding but it is also who I am. I am living my life my own way, that’s what my tat says.

“Last year I went into business with Betty Saunders-Klimenko, (daughter of the late John Saunders – co-owner of the Westfield Shopping centre with Frank Lowy.)

“She is an amazing lady and I have known her for a very long time. She owned a pub in Cooma and I bought her partners out. We’ve now got five pubs together and I have 12 pubs in NSW. I want 20 all up when we float and we’ll use the money to extend Pubboy into other states properly.

“Pubs in country areas have better yields than those in the outer suburbs, and pubs in inner-city areas give great brand recognition.

“I have regrets. I was really stupid [in 2005] and got in the papers for the wrong reasons. [He split with his wife Jade and then hooked up with Amber Petty, who was a bridesmaid for Princess Mary of Denmark. It sent the media into a frenzy.]

“The media and the separation were really distracting but we’ve been back together for a while now and I’ve grown up a lot. Jade has just started her own small business called She sells Sanctuary, selling accessories online.

“I’ve changed a lot. In the beginning it was easy to go for it. But 10 years on I’ve got plenty to lose. I got a great accounting team in a few years ago and I have new reporting and stocktaking… I should have done all this a long time ago.”


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