The colourful business career of the late rich lister Len Buckeridge

The colourful business career of the late rich lister Len Buckeridge

Published 12 March 2014 12:17, Updated 12 March 2014 13:22

Jonathan Barrett

Len Buckeridge on the phone – he always said he wanted to “work until he dropped”. Photo: John Mokrzycki

Len Buckeridge was so incensed that he picked up a union official’s car with a forklift and dropped it over a cyclone fence.

The alleged incident that Buckeridge relayed to Melbourne based investment banker David Williams might well be a mix of fact and legend – but it wouldn’t be out of character.

On Tuesday, Australia lost one of its most successful and colourful business people. Aged 77, the former shoeless war child from England who built the Buckeridge Group of Companies into a diversified manufacturing and construction empire suffered a suspected heart attack and died.

Williams, who has been working on ort [other recurrent transactions] options for Buckeridge, says Buckeridge was “one of nature’s ­gentlemen”.

“At the same time he was someone who took no prisoners in his quest to develop his business but always with a wicked sense of humour that few appreciated,” Williams says.

Born in 1936, Leonard Walter Buckeridge grew up in a modest home in the then very modest Perth suburb of Rivervale.

He died on Tuesday morning at his luxury home in Peppermint Grove, one of the priciest postcodes in the nation.

Buckeridge had suffered from poor health for many years and died while working at his desk.

He always said he wanted to work until he dropped.

“I used to say when I die and get buried just drop me in a post-hole,” he once said.

“Now I say drop me in a post-hole but at a depth so I can have my finger sticking out to say ‘I bloody told you so!’ ”

Last laugh

Few would deny Buckeridge got the last laugh, having terrorised more than a few business people and politicians (and journalists) in his quest to develop a vertically integrated empire, where he made just about everything he used.

It was known as the “Buckeridge model” and more than a few companies have tried to replicate the strategy, with varying degrees of success. His business ideology fitted his personal philosophy.

Buckeridge was not only self-made but self-reliant, and BGC became one of the country’s biggest home builders. At last count, Buckeridge was worth $2.1 billion, 17th on the BRW Rich 200 list.

Buckeridge’s sons Andrew and Sam, and stepson Julian Ambrose hold prominent roles at BGC, ensuring the family legacy continues.

Everyone agrees Buckeridge was a great businessman – even his fiercest critics.

One of his most prominent sparring partners, federal Labor politician Alannah MacTiernan, says she was convinced ­Buckeridge was so tough that he would outlive all his foes.

Worthy sparring partner

“I always thought Len would be there to dance on my grave,” says MacTiernan, who engaged in fierce disputes with Buckeridge when she held key planning and infrastructure portfolios in state government.

“It would be true to say that Len and I enjoyed the contest we had.”

“He always wanted a worthy sparring partner. He would threaten to sue me and then show up to my electoral office to chew the fat and tell me his life story.”

Despite being a major Liberal Party donor, Buckeridge didn’t hold back his venom from conservative governments .

He had been embroiled in a billion-dollar lawsuit against WA’s Colin Barnett-led Liberal government over a private port development plan. The dispute is ongoing.

Nonetheless, Barnett says Buckeridge was one of the great characters of WA ­business.

“He never shied away from a fight, and certainly never shied away from contentious issues,” says Barnett.

Generosity shone through

“While he was often seen as a hard man in business, he was extraordinarily generous in the community and was always willing to help out local groups and sporting clubs.”

After fighting governments and unions during the week, Buckeridge would often be seen helping run a sausage sizzle at his surf club at the weekend.

BGC is still a sponsor of the North Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club.

Yet it was Buckeridge’s hard edge that usually attracted headlines.

Buckeridge refused to cede any ground in a bitter seven year legal battle with his former business partner of 20 years, Julian Walter.

Walter claimed his old business partner had publicly damaged his personal and business reputation and hurt him commercially.

However, Master Builders director Michael McLean says it will Buckeridge’s positive legacy that will be remembered.

“The legacy of building industry magnate Len Buckeridge’s quest for affordable housing for Western Australians will live on for many decades,” McLean says.

“Len Buckeridge was an industry powerhouse who pioneered affordable housing and freedom of association in the commercial building sector.”

 

Rich lister Len Buckeridge dies at 77

Published 12 March 2014 10:18, Updated 12 March 2014 10:19

West Australian billionaire building mogul Len Buckeridge died from a suspected heart attack at his Perth home Tuesday morning.

The 77-year-old founder of the Buckeridge Group of Companies was ranked 17th on the BRW Rich 200 list with an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion. He had been in poor health for many years.

An architect by training, he started building low-cost housing 50 years ago and later diversified into manufacturing, industrial and commercial construction. The so-called “Buckeridge model” was based on the vertical integration of making nearly everything he needed for his business.

Commercial lawyer Michael Hotchkin, who worked with Mr Buckeridge for 25 years, confirmed the businessman died from a suspected heart attack at his Peppermint Grove home while working at his desk.

Fearless warrior

“I’d say he was a titan among Australia’s businessmen,” Hotchkin says. “He was a visionary and the most courageous businessman I’ve ever met. He was completely fearless in fighting unions and government.”

Buckeridge was renowned for his high-profile fights and colourful language.

In 2010, he told The Australian Financial Review that: “No, I haven’t mellowed. I still hate bureaucrats. People say, ‘You don’t like the unions.’ Well, I can handle them easy. You get a bit of common sense out of them, but these bureaucrats keep shifting the goal posts. It drives you mad.”

Buckeridge’s sons Andrew and Sam are directors of BGC, as is his stepson Julian Ambrose.

Despite being known for his ­anti-union stance – in the 1980s he famously drove his car through a caravan annexe that formed part of a union picket line – Buckeridge has ­consistently battled Liberal and Labor governments alike.

He recently lodged a billion-dollar lawsuit against the Coalition state government over a private port development dispute. That issue isn’t resolved.

Premier Colin Barnett says that while Buckeridge was often seen as a hard man in business, he was generous in the community.

“Len lived in my electorate and I would often see him around the area. He always had some advice to give me, regardless of whether I necessarily wanted to hear it,” Barnett says.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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