Property Australia

What’s Greg Paramor’s simple but brilliant formula?

PROPERTY AUSTRALIA June 18, 2019

Greg Paramor AO has established a succession of milestone companies, championed sustainability and transformed lives through his charity work. Find out why Paramor is the newest inductee into the Australian Property Hall of Fame.

“Greg Paramor has an extraordinary track record in the property industry, and incredible talent for picking markets ahead of time,” says the Property Council’s national president, Stephen Conry AM.

“During his almost-five decades at the top of the property industry, Greg has invested in landmark projects that have shaped our city skylines,” Conry adds.

Born in Western Australia’s Margaret River in 1950, Paramor’s career in property starts with a story of serendipity.

He’d left school at 17 to join the workforce, first in finance, then in the rental car industry, before buying his first business, a newsagent, at 21. After selling up in 1972, Paramor responded to a job ad for what he assumed was a finance company but was instead Milner & Company – a commercial real estate agency that would one day become Knight Frank.

It was a natural fit – and Paramor cut his teeth working on a wide range of projects: shopping centres, industrial warehouses and high-rises stretching to the dizzying heights of 32 floors.

A stint at night school secured a diploma in real estate management and Paramor’s career took off from there.

 

Setting us up for prosperity and growth

By 1981, Paramor’s first big-ticket property foray was well underway. Teaming up with Knight Frank colleague Dick Lester, Greg began building Growth Equities Mutual. By then he’d developed his simple but brilliant formula: “put shareholders first, staff second and yourself third”.

When Paramor sold his stake in the fund in 1992, it had become Australia’s largest unlisted property trust, worth around $1.5 billion. 

As Paramor’s business reputation grew, so did his contribution to the property industry. During the heady days of the 1980s, he steered the industry though the headwinds of the ‘recession we had to have’. As chair of what was to become the Investment Management Association, Paramor navigated regulatory challenges and established the rules governing property trusts and real estate investment schemes – rules that set the industry up for three decades of prosperity and growth.

In 1994, having weathered the storms of a property market downturn, Paramor and Rod Leaver launched Paladin after acquiring Southgate Towers in Melbourne. While Paramor made it look easy, it wasn’t always plain sailing. Paladin’s early days were typified by “not much on the table and a baked beans diet”, Paramor once said. But with characteristic persistence and patience, Paramor stayed the course. Paladin was to grow into a multibillion business before Deutsche Asset Management, which later became Dexus, snapped it up in 2000.

Former property editor of the Australian Financial Review, Rob Harley, says Paramor’s work at the “cutting edge” of fund management had a “big impact” on the property industry.

After that success Paramor and Leaver set up another listed vehicle, James Fielding Group, in 2001. In the first year the pair delivered a staggering 447 per cent increase in net profit, boosting funds under management to an impressive $1.5 billion. James Fielding Group was just a month shy of its third birthday when, in 2004, Mirvac picked it up for a $478 million price tag.

The deal allowed Paramor to apply his experience and entrepreneurial skills as managing director and CEO of Mirvac. After years building his own businesses from scratch, sitting in the driver’s seat of one of Australia’s iconic property brands with 5,000 employees was a new test.

 

Selling sustainability

But Paramor embraced the challenge – and did so with decidedly green fingers.

Romilly Madew AO, CEO of Infrastructure Australia and former CEO of the Green Building Council of Australia, says he used his role as a leader to “drive change”. Madew points to several “game changers” in green building, including the 6 Star Green Star ratings for the Orion Springfield shopping centre in Queensland and his work to establish a sustainability course with Bond University.

Paramor steered the Mirvac ship for four years before stepping down in 2008. A short-lived retirement was cut short when, in 2009, Paramor joined a syndicate that bought LJ Hooker. The business was struggling – but Paramor, as director and then chairman, turned the company around in just four years before the agency was sold back to Janusz Hooker in 2015.

Meanwhile, he was busy building another listed developer and fund manager, Folkestone, after being appointed managing director in 2011. With an unerring sense of when to buy and when to bail, again, history repeated itself when in August 2018, Charter Hall acquired Folkestone in a $205 million cash deal.

 

A defining and lasting difference

Decidedly down to earth despite his high-level deal making, Paramor has spent many decades building trust and loyalty among his colleagues, investors, suppliers and even competitors. “The only thing you take to your grave is your integrity,” he often says.

In January 2015, Paramor was made an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia for his distinguished service to the community and charity.

A visionary change agent, Paramor was the Property Council’s national president from 2000 to 2002, earning a life membership for his contribution. And as a founding member of the Property Industry Foundation and generous benefactor to this day, Paramor helps young people to rebuild their lives.

Peter Verwer AO, former CEO of the Property Council, applauds Paramor’s “defining and lasting difference” to the property industry and Australian society. Above all, Paramor continues to contribute to an industry that is, in his words, a source of shelter from the storm for all Australians.

View the Australian Property Hall of Fame video celebrating the life and work of Greg Paramor AO.

Tags: PEOPLE