John Tabart is one of the great property survivors. The man who was CEO of Christopher Skase’s Mirage Resorts from 1987 until the collapse in 1991 has spent the last decade running Victoria’s multi-billion dollar Docklands Authority.
However, this morning the controversial can-do man has bailed and will take up a new position with the Dubai Property Group. Did he jump before being pushed? Who knows, but he certainly has been a great survivor, putting up with all sorts of abuse from Jeff Kennett and then surviving numerous stoushes with developers in more recent years.
Kennett looks back on Tabart and laments that he should have called his bluff earlier about all the talk of theme parks and technology precincts which never materialised into actual developments.
However, the apartment towers have certainly sprouted like mushrooms in recent years but the majority of investors are now underwater and there is ongoing litigation involving developers like Mirvac and some of their buyers. While residential is suffering a downturn, Tabart’s team has recently been talking up things like ING’s retail development.
Tabart is a former managing director of Lend Lease Residential, which is ironic given that Lend Lease has been pathetically slow to develop its giant 30ha Victoria Harbour precinct at Docklands. Check out this big-talking press release from 2002.
There was also the controversial merger of the Docklands Authority with the Urban and Regional Land Corporation (URLC) in 2003 to create VicUrban, which didn’t make a lot of sense given that one was focused on a loss-making inner-city precinct and the other was a highly profitable developer of new estates on the urban fringes.
The merger gave the Bracks Government an excuse to sack the well-credentialled URLC board which some cynics believe was payback for the Jim Reeves job-for-a-mate affair back in November 2001, which remains the most damaging blot on his squeaky clean image. Reeves was Bracks’s best mate and he was slotted to run the URLC but pulled out when a public scandal emerged about the selection process.
The 2003 merger saw numerous respected URLC executives bail in the immediate aftermath, but what happens now that guru Tabart has walked? And what will all those developers who have been pushed around for years by Tabart do now?