As one of Australia’s most experienced real estate and hospitality investors, it takes a particular type of leader to direct Mulpha Group to success.
For Greg Shaw, being an influential CEO that thrives on results is a skill he’s turned into a career spanning close to three decades.
With five years at Mulpha Group, a 13-year tenure as CEO at Ardent Leisure, where he grew a A$70 million enterprise to a A$1.2 billion business, and a 10-year tenure as CEO at Koala Corporation Australia, it’s an outstanding achievement considering the average CEO tenure is five years and eight months.
"As CEO, performance is the ultimate test and, unless you can drive and improve financial performance, it’s difficult to be successful long-term," Greg tells The CEO Magazine. "For me, the key is financial success and the core ingredient of ongoing financial success is building the right executive team."
Building and nurturing a strong team culture is often touted as fundamental among the world’s most successful companies, and it’s a notion the Mulpha Group CEO strongly embraces.
"The role of CEO is not only recruiting the best talent available but placing them in an environment where they thrive and a lot of that is driven by great culture, teamwork and a complete lack of politics," he explained. "Being in the right environment and the right culture brings out the best in everyone and I think not only does it affect direct reports but also absolutely everyone in the team.
"We spend a lot of time thinking about how we can continually improve culture and teamwork and I think people need to love coming to work and be very proud of what they’re achieving."
With a portfolio across a variety of industries from real estate investment and development to hospitality and car parks, one of the golden rules of success is, quite simply, timing.
A wealth of expertise among the team allows for investment opportunities to be actioned at optimal times, resulting in substantial long-term growth.
"Often it is also about knowing when not to invest that is also crucial to success," Greg noted.
From investing in a large ex-brickworks site in the 1980s when confidence in the Sydney market was down to jumping on new opportunities, including the A$130 million refurbishment of Hayman Island following the devastating effects of Cyclone Debbie in 2017, the possibilities are endless.
"Mulpha has a really long tradition of real estate investment and development and what the group has done very well in the past has made investments in real estate that have been against the typical cycles," Greg said. "The group has traditionally been very good at picking the right time to invest in the cycle.
"What differentiates us is also the fact that we have significant depth of experience in real estate development and investment while we are equally comfortable taking a hands-on role in operating businesses."
InterContinental Sydney, InterContinental Hayman Island Resort, InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort, London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square, Norwest City, Bimbadgen Winery and The Hotel School Sydney and Melbourne are among some of the businesses under the group’s umbrella.
"For me, the key is financial success and the core ingredient of ongoing financial success is building the right executive team." – Greg Shaw
Following its instinct of investing when confidence is lacking, Mulpha Group bought Sanctuary Cove out of receivership.
The resort is now one of the biggest draw cards for the Queensland region, attracting millions when they operate the annual Sanctuary Cover International Boat Show – which also has a A$300 million impact on the Gold Coast economy (according to a study the group commissioned).
"Sanctuary Cove has been a phenomenal long-term investment for us, and we continue to invest heavily in the redevelopment of that site," Greg told The CEO Magazine. "Sanctuary Cove provides a unique combination of lifestyle assets including two championship golf courses, a 300 plus berth marina catering for recreational vessels and superyachts from around the world, a boutique retail village, state of the art fitness facilities and the 250 room 5-star InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort.
"Having assets like InterContinental Hayman Island helps us attract the global boating market and we’ll be actively promoting the property to entice more and more large vessels into the Australian market, which will have a very big multiplier impact in terms of what they spend across many different destinations."
State-of-the-art covered berths for superyachts up to 50m was part of the marina’s multi-million-dollar upgrade, making it one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
"Covered berthing is a logical extension of a product available to customers that really helps them protect what are significant financial investments," Greg said. "There’s an increased investment in high-quality vessels and there’s certainly a demand in the market for people to protect and maintain those investments."
Unlike many industries, a penchant for spending life on the water hasn’t been hindered by the pandemic. In fact, the executive believes it’s further promoted the adoration towards luxury water vessels.
"Often it is also about knowing when not to invest that is also crucial to success." – Greg Shaw
"We’ve seen a very strong take up of berths in the new Sanctuary Cove marina and our boat broker tenants are reporting record sales," he explained. "That’s reflecting the fact that people are investing in themselves and lifestyle at the moment.
"Our marina business has been performing really strongly during this period."
Along with the exclusive marina, online education platforms and residential developments are among the other businesses within the Mulpha portfolio that have been performing well despite COVID-19.
"Mulpha has invested in long-term development projects and we’ve continued to maintain quality. I think that’s really resonated with the customer at the moment," Greg said. "What we’ve seen in this period is good-quality projects that are delivering high-end products at reasonable pricing are really winning out in this current market."
Through assessing each of the companies within its diverse portfolio, the health crisis has allowed the group to go back to basics, looking for new ways to accelerate performance.
"We try to create opportunities, striving for innovation and disruption, which we think we’ve been particularly good at," Greg said. "By far the greatest challenge of my career has been COVID-19. No-one in our lifetime has seen the same level of fundamental disruption to demand that the pandemic has presented.
"We think our business will be much stronger and much more resilient in the future."