Meriton’s succession plan built on solid foundations

Article Source: The Australian
Image source: The Australian

Billionaire developer Harry Triguboff is grooming his grandsons — Daniel and Ariel Hendler — to take over the Meriton empire, saying they will continue his property legacy.

Mr Triguboff — whose fortune was estimated by Forbes last year at $US9.9 billion, ranked him as Australia’s second-wealthiest person and at No 167 globally — celebrated his 85th birthday this month with a lavish party.

He told The Australian his grandsons were working with “the bones of the business — its 900 – strong workforce”. “They aren’t scared to get their hands dirty or to come to me for advice, even though it’s not always what they’d like to hear. There’s no special treatment. I don’t mince words,” Mr Triguboff said.

Daniel, 27, started at Meriton four years ago. Ariel, 24, joined two years later. Both completed a property economics degree. “Both have realised quickly that construction is the beating heart of Meriton and that the heart keeps ticking over thanks to sales, leasing, and our hotel-suites business,” Mr Triguboff said.

He flirted with selling Meriton as the apartment boom gathered pace in 2014 and major Chinese developers flooded into Australia looking for projects.

In early 2015, talks with China’s Country Garden to sell the empire stalled and later that year Mr

Triguboff sat down with his two daughters, Sharon and Orna, and four grandchildren, Daniel, Ariel, Ella — previously Meriton’s marketing manager — and Miki to discuss the future of the business.

Despite Mr Triguboff’s larger than- life profile, the family is intimately involved in the business and meets every Thursday to discuss investment and the company.

Three long time Meriton executives became directors as the structure was put in place: head of construction David Cremona, head of sales James Sialepis and head of the hotel-suites business Matthew Thomas.

Daniel and Ariel say their roles in the business are structured with a view to succession.

“We are very involved in the management, that’s where Harry wants us,” Daniel told The Australian.

“We would be absolutely honoured, absolutely privileged (to take over the business) … but that decision is completely up to Harry.”

After some early issues, they have come to “love” working in the industry. “Even if Harry tomorrow said ‘I’m going to sell to the Chinese, I think we’d probably start a property company together,”

Ariel said. Meriton owns 3000 residential apartments that are leased and 4000 hotel suites in its investment portfolio, with a proportion of each unit project retained.

The company has 15 projects in Sydney and on the Gold Coast proposed or under construction with two in the process of being launched.

Daniel, a development and operations manager at Meriton, has undertaken two unit projects through his own company, but using Meriton’s infrastructure, including its building marketing arms. The projects included negotiating with Meriton’s bank, ANZ, for funding, Daniel said.

“It’s my own company that has engaged with ANZ, engaged Meriton’s construction company and its sales and marketing. It’s a project

I run and it’s the best way to learn,” he said. “I take the risk and the profit.

It’s a lot of extra responsibility but you get the reward as well.”

The projects were Vistas at Epping in 2015 and VIDA at Mascot.

Ariel, as a development manager, expects to launch a project, Escada,

131 O’riordan Street, Mascot in April. The 104 apartments will be under Meriton’s corporate structure, but will be overseen by Ariel.

Mr Triguboff, his grandsons say, continues to drives the business hard.

“Harry is 85 and still gets into the office every day. If he is not off to the Gold Coast to check out sites there, he is in the detail,” Daniel said. Every weekend he takes home 300 pages, known as “the sheets”, covering three parts of the business. “We are starting to take the sheets home as well,” said Ariel.

“The finance sheets, the property sheets, and operational sheets, each pack is 100 sheets, so all up 300.”

Would they want to gain experience working anywhere else? “In a big company you can be boxed into working on one thing for years,” Ariel said.

“Even if I was at Lendlease or Multiplex, how often would I sit with the CEO of the company and watch him operate?

“No, I don’t think in any other company I would get as much exposure to such a key person as Harry.”


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