Secret is hard work pays

November 3, 2018

Fortune favours the brave, and diligent, and Warren Ebert has carved a career out of hard work and anticipating investment trend. He says all signs point to growth in Cairns.

Warren Ebert insists there is no secret to making money – you just have to work hard.

And the managing director of Sentinel Property Group, which has amassed a portfolio of more than $1 billion of office and commercial properties since it was founded 20 years ago, could never be accused of cruising through life.

Recently celebrating his 60th birthday, Mr Ebert is showing no signs of slowing – he has been to China three times this year, clocked up visits to 88 countries and wants to hit 100 by the end of 2019 and has made acquisitions worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Newcastle, Townsville and Brisbane over the past 10 months.

He said Cairns first appeared on his radar because of its struggling economy.

in 2016, Sentinel snapped up DFO Cairns for a bargain $39.7 million and 18 months later the firm bought 139 Grafton St for $8.5 million.

“We always look for areas where there are perceived problems, where the big institutional players don’t want to invest,” he said.

“We’d certainly like to buy more in Cairns but there hasn’t been the opportunity yet. We’re the buyer in the $15 million-$50 million price range, if you’re in the smaller range there is a lot of competition.

“DFO is going well. I think we’ve got another three to five years before that centre is where we want it to be. We are on the shortlist for the new Centrelink site.

“We’re continually looking for the signs of growth such as tourism pick up. Bigger players want to see a pick up of three or four years, but we want to get in early.”

The doting father and grandfather lives by an adage from the “other great Warren in the world, Warren Buffett”: “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”.

“You can go to the residential property auctions and you could buy everything there, you just have to pay more than everyone else,” he explained.

“Don’t be frightened to have a go at something that’s difficult. There are plenty of things we’ve bought that people have laughed at and then when we sell they say that was a lucky buy. It wasn’t lucky. You have to work hard to make money.”

Formerly a Citimark Properties Pty Ltd commercial development director, a Property Funds Australia Limited consultant, PRD Realty retail projects director and CB Richard Ellis commercial developments director, the property industry has always held appeal and Mr Ebert, a straight-shooter, enjoys watching for trends.

He said the attention showered on the Far North by Syrian investor Ghassan Aboud was one of the signs of a city on the rise.

“If you’ve got fellows who are multi-millionaires they’re not going to invest because they want to tear their money up,” Mr Ebert said.

“They’re looking at security. We weigh all of those things up and like to get in early in the upturn.

“From Mackay north has a good decade ahead of it through mining, through tourism. The government has to do something to encourage migrants to come to the regions.”

Like many business players in the Far North region, Mr Ebert cannot underline the importance of China enough.

“I know Chinese tourism in Sri Lanka has quadrupled in the last three years – that’s the cheaper end and easy to get to,” he said. “As they get more money they’ll get to Cairns for the reef, the rainforest and shopping. I’ve been to China three times this year, I’m very familiar with the market, and the Chinese won’t even buy their Chanel or Louis Vuitton there because they’re worried it is a fake.

“And, in China, those brands are 20 to 30 per cent more expensive. That’s one of the reasons I bought DFO.

“If you’re a believer in the wealth of Asia – 58 per cent of millennials of the world live in Asia – the economic strength through Asia will improve and they want to come to a nice, clean place like Australia.”

Having said that, the new eatery precinct at DFO Cairns, DFOOD, is for locals, Mr Ebert said. “We’re designing that for locals, mum and dad can take the kids there. We haven’t done that to make a fortune on food,” he said.

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