Simon Lloyd

There are developers, and then there are developers you’d willingly have a drink with. And they can usually afford to shout.

Why it’s Tom Hedley’s shout…

Somebody asked me the other night to name the five property developers I’d most like to get pissed with and why. The mate who posed this vexing question was actually just fishing for a compliment. He fancies himself as a property developer (he bought a small row of shops in the slums of Cairns last year, so now he reckons he’s Frank Lowy).

I told him I’d favourably consider granting him a mention by name in this blog if he could persuade Gerry Harvey to lease one of his vacant stores — c’mon Gerry.

But the thought did tickle my fancy, and it was with no hesitation that I picked Tom Hedley as my first choice of drinking partners.

This was for a number of reasons, not least of which would be the choice of pubs where we could get tanked together, all of them belonging to Tom.

“Barramundi Tom” is worth at least half a billion smackers. He rose rapidly to national prominence in the business press last year when Coles Myer paid him $306 million for his portfolio of pubs and bottleshops in north Queensland. CML boss John Fletcher was reported as saying at the time that Tom had lived up to his nickname thanks to a process of slippery negotiations. (Nobody who knows Tom would ever call him Barramundi, mind you. They just call him Bloody Clever.)

In what must rank as the pub deal of the decade, Tom made sure his eponymous brand name didn’t disappear from the bottle-o business. The properties he wouldn’t sell to CML, he agreed to lease to them as long as he could keep the “Hedz” moniker on the shingle.

Tom is also building units on every available development site in Cairns, so if you’re not seeing his name on a liquor store, you’re seeing it on a crane. It’s a bit odd given how shy Tom actually is…

Anyhow, Tom’s pub and liquor store tentacles are creeping ever further south from his home base of Cairns. Late last year his dominance of Gold Coast watering holes was extended when he added the $32 million Ferry Road Tavern complex to his portfolio (wouldn’t want to get off my tree in there right at the moment, just quietly — it hasn’t been renovated since 1961 and many a patron has had to leave without their shoes after finding them stuck fast to the flock carpeting).

Needless to say, there’s also been a lot of goss about Tom being interested in buying John Cornell’s Beach Hotel at Byron, but I wouldn’t have to get Tom stonkered to find out why he won’t be buying that particular bauble, at this stage anyway: the price tag is now rumoured to be around $88 million and if there’s one thing Tom knows, it’s when an asset is overpriced.

One recent deal sticks in my mind showing how shrewd this bloke is.

In October last year, Tom bought the Cairns Colonial Club, a pretty moribund inner-suburban, mid-price resort needing some serious TLC, for around $19 million. Everyone in town thought he’d gone bonkers and had finally, for once, paid waaaaay too much for a property.

Less than a month later, he re-sold the place to a Singaporean consortium … for $25 million.

Oh, same again thanks mate!


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