Hello Melbourne you were scary!

 

Dear Brian

Your support for my move to Melbourne was unflinching and appreciated.

I quickly settled into my new home in Armadale and with Myf in tow, spent the first few weeks getting to know the city and spending time with the franchisees.

Most of the people in Melbourne, I already knew quite well from the old ERA days but the level of despair amongst many of these and the newer franchisees was quite palpable.

I came to respect Myf even more, for the job she had done in keeping things together in the face of an economy that had tanked in 1989.

Two of Myf’s larger signings had been associated with property development and their businesses were failing because of huge losses in the development arena.

From our office in Como it was not difficult to look out the window and see the weeds growing on large, empty tracts of prime development land in the heart of Melbourne’s richest residential area.

Even at the prices of the day, it was possible to drive for less than a kilometre and add up Billion Dollar losses in commercial and residential developments that were under siege.

It is hard to imagine now, the scene in many of the outer suburbs where property prices would fall by as much as 50% between 1990 and 1993.

My experience in Wagga in the late seventies, did in some ways; prepare me for this decimation and give me hope that sooner or later the market would find its way back.

Nothing though, could have propertly prepared anyone for what was happening here. This was on a mammoth scale in a major city.

Blind hope was our best resource, I was fortunate in that as well as my responsibility in Victoria, I was taking an increasingly national role with management training across NSW and Queensland and cameo roles on the National Board .

It was this opportunity, to take a more hands on role in the broader group ,that helped keep things in perspective. I would come back to Victoria refreshed and re energised for the battle.

My National role was recognised in early 1992 when you were in town for a couple of days and you offered me an opportunity to become a Director of the National Company.

I was to become the first “non White” on the National Board, except of course for Andrew, who handled the financials for all of your interests..

My elation was tempered by the responibiliities the new role would encompass, but it was a high honour, I was humbled to accept.

Meanwhile, the Nation was plunging further into financial crisis with Victoria, now known as the “rust belt” State leading the way

The largest privately owned bank in the Nation, Westpac; was under siege and the smaller State based banks were failing across the country. Within a year of my arrival in Melbourne the largest Building Society in Victoria, Pyramid; would crash and burn, destroying what was left of much of the wealth in the State.

Devastation brings opportunity and in 1992, one of the oldest institutions of Melbourne Real Estate, Blackburn and Lockwood was forced into insolvency. The B and L of the present was a faded old whore, but it did have some reasonable offices and a throwaway line to you at the Queensland Company night brought a response.

“B and L is fucked, Brian, we should look at it, we are getting good at this rescue caper”

It was said in fun, but soon, You, Paul and I would be locked in a room at Camberwell with a group of very angry B and L franchisees.

They were aghast their proud Victorian Company was being taken over by the marauding horde of philistines from the deep north.

History would cast doubt on whether we would ever make money from the B and L adventure, but I learnt heaps.

Not the least of these lessons, was how to be universally hated and how to work through this hatred, without becoming bitter and twisted yourself.

Naïve optimism was a wonderful fallback position! Albeit, this optimism was laced with a healthy dose of desperation.

My time in Victoria was spent travelling from office to office, calming tensions between neighbouring offices, that until very recently had been firece competitors.

Slowly much of the pain and suspicion eased and many of the businesses started to work together.

There were many moments, though; when  would look in the mirror and ask “What the Fuck,have I done?”

Thanks again, Brian.

Bruce

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