As I write this, I am astounded by how quickly things moved between 1992 and 1994.
We had barely bedded down the acquisition of Blackburn and Lockwood in Victoria before a much bigger target loomed in New Zealand. We fnalised the sale of the United group in early 1993.
Then, just as I might have been heading to the surface for some air, we were in a plane heading for Western Australia for talks with the Mair group in that state.
I remember sitting in the Mair group offices, preparing my address for a meeting with the franchisees at 5.00 pm.
Andrew had done his due diligence, You and John Mair had agreed on price and terms, now; it was up to me to sell the thing to the franchisees, none of whom I had ever met before.
I noticed it was around 3.00 pm and you and Andrew were nowhere to be seen, we had spoken earlier about another possible takeover in WA, but as late as lunchtime today; it had been no more than a thought bubble.
You had said you were going to try and squeeze a chat about this into your afternoon. I did not give it a lot of thought.
I was busy reviewing the figures for the Mair group offices, trying to get a handle on who would be the power brokers amongst this group we would be meeting very shortly and who were surely to be antagonistic towards the Easterner upstarts.
I had just finished my speech when you and Andrew walked in together, there was something conspiratorial about the way you looked at each other, before asking me out for a coffee.
“Bruce, we have another meeting tonight at 7.30 pm, don’t worry it is not far too away, we can finish with the Mair people by 7.00pm and walk across the road”
“What the fuck are you talking about”
I think it was Andrew who broke the news.
“We have just reached agreement to buy the Peet group” there was a certain glee in the way AJ said this.
It was as if he assumed I would simply take this bit of news in my stride and somehow all would turn out OK.
“Holy Shit, there must be at least five or six offices that directly compete with each other, what are we going to do with them?”
You looked me squarely in the eye “You will find a way through, we have faith in our CEO and we thought you would like another challenge”
There was a smile playing around your lips as you uttered the last bit.
Sometime earlier in the year, between constant trips to New Zealand, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania you had told me of the change to my title. Paul would step back from a day to day managerial role and I would step up the CEO role.
I had been overjoyed by this promotion but the true significance had not settled in, I had simply been too busy.
Now I was face to face with the daunting reality!
I had an hour to change my Mair group speech to incorporate this news, and to try to get some feel for the people in the Peet group before meeting with them later in the evening.
Dismay and antagonism would be kind words to describe the reactions from both groups, but somehow, we got through the night.
You handed me a hand-written note as we were leaving the Peet meeting, it is still a prized possession.
“Tonight, I saw my CEO in action, I was proud of you”
Getting through announcements was just the start the hard work, the integration of all these groups was still in its infancy.
Ray White Real Estate, Blackburn and Lockwood, United Reality, Peet and Co, Mair and Co.
Bruce Ingrey, CEO of the Ray White Group, had a business card which looked like a who’s who of Australasian Real Estate.
These were exciting times, we were like a well oiled, old style Grand Prix racing team; you were the owner / driver, AJ was the team manager and I was the mechanic.
The mechanic’s job was to somehow keep all the wheekls turning, there were a lot of wheels to keep oiled!.