Two American multi-millionaires have spent millions of dollars investing in real estate in Tasmania in the past couple of years.

Crikey can reveal they are the media-shy brothers Herman and Robert Rockefeller. A well-informed source says they are scions of the American Rockefeller dynasty and cousins of Nelson Rockefeller.

Herman Rockefeller lives in Melbourne, but regularly visits Tasmania, while Robert Rockefeller and his young family live in the Hobart suburb of Sandy Bay.

Among many positions, Robert Rockefeller is vice president of the Property Council of Australia, Herman Rockefeller’s directorships include Carlton United Breweries.

Early this year, the University of Tasmania sold 42 houses in the expensive suburbs of Sandy Bay, Battery Point, Dynnyrne and South Hobart to a “private vendor” for a bargain basement price of $13.5 million.

Crikey can reveal that the buyer was the Rockefellers.

Bought over many years, the houses have been used as a below-market rent option for 200 students. While most of the buildings are run down, they are in prime locations, most of them in Sandy Bay, and all within walking distance of the university’s Sandy Bay campus and the CBD.

Given the recent surge in Hobart property values – which continues against the trend in Melbourne and Sydney – the Rockefellers are expected to make a killing when the buildings are renovated or demolished and the sites redeveloped.

While plans are drawn up, the brothers have leased them to the the Tasmania University Union for student housing in 2007.

Other properties snapped up by the Rockefellers include a prime vacant block in the Hobart CBD and a building on the city end of Sandy Bay Rd which is being redeveloped into apartments.

Crikey can reveal that Nekon Pty Ltd, which owns the Bayside Burnie Hotel and which has and has bought a significant Art Deco building, the Portside Building, from the Burnie City Council, is a Rockefeller company.

Portside is to be demolished. Art Deco Society of Australia president Robin Grow told the Tasmanian media last week that it would have been a feature of a proposed Art Deco trail in Burnie, which had the potential to rival Napier in New Zealand.

Nekon is a big investor in projects and developments throughout Australia.

Peter Fray

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