New Zealand 1992 – 1993

Dear Brian

I had bedded down as much as possible,  the acquisition of Blackwood and Lockwood  before leaving Victoria in later 1992.

The acquisition of the B and L business, along with; the melding of it within the existing Ray White business was certainly not without its heartaches and pitfalls, but it did feed a passion for growth.

In many ways, we were fortunate to have had this learning experience. History was going to repeat itself several times, over the next few years and we were prepared

Interest rates were high and getting higher, the economic headwinds; which Treasurer Paul Keating would come to call “the recession we had to have”, were having often fatal effects on the expansion plans of others in these uncertain times. The timing was ripe for us to move onward and outward.

The State Bank of South Australia had embarked on a massive expansion drive driven by the ego of its Managing Director, Tim Marcus Clarke. This expansion was to end in grief for shareholders, the people of South Australia and for many investors.

Part of its “portfolio of bad ideas” had been the purchase of New Zealand’s United Realty Group with approximately 80 offices spread over the two Islands.

I had not long been back in Sydney before You, Andrew and I were on plane to Auckland to have a look at this business and to get a feel for whether it would be a fit for us.

You stayed in the Auckland office to talk to the administrators, Andrew was locked up with the books just down the hall and I hired cars and drivers to get around as many of the offices in Auckland, and then, Wellington as possible.

My job was to get some feel of the market presence of this potential business.

We met up again before flying back to Australia and you tabled an offer for this business.

They laughed at us, and the business was supposedly sold to LJ Hooker.

The headlines in the business papers called it a done deal.

The loss of this business was disappointing but I had more than enough to keep me occupied.  I was back in Victoria almost every week as well as doing management training and working with offices across the the three states.

I was still on Holidays after Christmas in 1993 when you called and told me we were heading back to New Zealand. Hookers had pulled out and the Administrator was desperate to get rid of this white elephant.

The response from the Franchisees was not unexpected this time. We knew we would be viewed as predators and we were not disappointed.

Our first trip to introduce ourselves featured bitterness and anger, two sessions in Auckland, a road trip to Hamilton and then Tauranga, an early morning flight to Wellington, a flight to Nelson, a late afternoon flight to Christchurch and then the final flight to Dunedin.

Eight meetings in three days, all of them angry and all of them enough to send us home with our tails between our legs, if we hadn’t done this before.

You, Paul and I spoke to the people and worked the rooms, we left New Zealand with some hope we could make this crazy adventure work.

We had Fitzy on board as our Administrator and her charm and nationality, plus the fact she had worked for us in Australia, helped boost our confidence

For the next twelve months, New Zealand would become my second home, I grew to love the country and the people, I especially grew to admire the guts and tenacity of many of our Franchisees who had been through years of shit under the previous owners.

Myffy and I, worked this country like our life depended on it. Slowly we were starting to be accepted by most of the franchisees and going to New Zealand for ten days a month, became something I looked forward to.

It was tough and busy, often eight or nine cities in one trip, very often, a series of fifteen hour days but I loved the thrill, I loved the growth we were beginning to see and I loved the interactions with our people.

Once again Brian, you had pushed me far beyond my comfort zone, I hope your faith was rewarded.




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