In business magazines’ desperate search for content they tend to lionise people who often don’t deserve such praise. BRW is more guilty of that sin than most. With its high-selling Rich 200 and spate of subsidiary lists, including Young Rich, Fast100 and Fast Starters mistakes will inevitably be made.

One fixture of the BRW in recent times has been ubiquitous pub owner, Mark Alexander-Erber, who has appeared on several recent Young Rich lists and been the subject of a number of glowing profiles (another example of BRW’s generous praise has been Boost-juice queen Janine Allis, whose wealth was grossly overstated by the magazine for a number of years, and who conveniently used to appear on all of BRW’s marketing materials).

In its most recent Young Rich edition (which published last October), BRW determined that Alexander-Erber was worth $20 million (up from $18 million in 2006), noting that:

The tattooed motorcycle-riding publican has cleverly positioned his chain of hotels above the private family pub operators, but below the radar of huge multinationals [and] Alexander-Erber has been busy restructuring the business, appointing a new chief financial officer and directors of operations and human resources – all aimed towards listing on the Australian Stock Exchange by the end of 2008.

Unfortunately for Pubboy, the only thing that will be listing anywhere are Alexander-Erber’s personal assets – on Ebay. On Saturday, Ben Wilmot in the AFR (stable-mate of BRW) revealed that:

The Pubboy Group hotel empire assembled by … Mark Alexander-Erber has collapsed, owing creditors about $20 million …

The ANZ Bank, which is understood to have a $10.5 million exposure to the group, has appointed insolvency firm PPB as receivers over six of the group’s pubs across NSW.

Wilmot also dryly noted that the future of the self-promoting Alexander-Erber’s reality TV show “now appears uncertain”.

Alexander-Erber has proved the exception to the rule “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Many would hold the prejudicial view that an angry-looking, tattooed gentleman sitting on a Harley Davidson may not be the next Warren Buffett.

As it turned out in Alexander-Erber’s case, that view is right, proving that Alan Bond isn’t the only one who can go broke owning pubs.

Peter Fray

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