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In profile: Folkestone managing director Greg Paramor
Greg Paramor is the managing director of property funds manager and developer Folkestone and is the former chief executive of Mirvac. Known for his Midas touch in commercial real estate, he has a long, deep involvement in the sector both as a developer and fund manager dating back to the 1970s. He is currently steering Folkestone into social infrastructure investments and tells Property Observer joining a syndicate investing in a fully let office building with a high yield and a strong tenant would be a good way to spend $750,000.
How long have you been in the industry?
My involvement began in 1972 when I joined a company which later became Knight Frank in Perth. I was involved in commercial leasing, but in those days I was more of a generalist than specialist. I was involved in the development of regional shopping centres, offices (a 32-level office was considered large back then) and industrial work.
In 1979, I joined Dick Lester and did development work in retail, commercial, a new development in Karratha, residential, industrial and fast foods.
I started Growth Equities Mutual in 1981 and grew it into one of the largest unlisted property trusts worth around $1.5 billion. I sold out of that and started Paladin Australia with Rod Leaver in 1994, a mainly funds management business, which we built up and sold to Deutsche Bank in 2000. I co-founded the James Fielding Group in 2001, which became Mirvac in 2004. I was CEO of Mirvac until 2008. I became managing director of Folkestone in March last year.
What’s happening in the area you specialise in?
We are always looking for gaps in the market, and areas that interest me include social infrastructure. In October Folkestone won control of Austock’s $555 million property platform, made up primarily of childcare centres, as well as Victoria government police stations and law courts. The amount of infrastructure required right throughout Australia is huge. But there is no money around. There is an opportunity for us able to provide solutions. We are also looking at other areas of healthcare such as aged care. The other focus is on residential sub-divisions and units. We are also involved in syndicating income producing assets.
Describe the most interesting property development or transaction you have been involved in.
That would be the floating of the Paladin Southgate trust (holder of the Southgate centre at South Bank, Melbourne). It was the largest float in 1995. That was a big catalyst for the commercial trust, and we did very good things after that including merging with Dexus. It was very exciting but also very tough as we were at the behest of the capital markets. We completed the deal on December 22, 1995, which proves you can do things in December. It grew to become the 10th largest fund in six years.
What are the ingredients to being successful in your job?
I have started many things from scratch, and it feels like a very steep hill at first and you are not sure how you will get there. You put one foot up at a time to get to the summit - if you try to sprint, you will run out of breadth. Be patient and be persistent, wait till investors are comfortable with you and make sure you have the right product.
What aspects of your role do you enjoy the most?
I love creating things. I love the property part and fund management part, dealing with investors. I enjoy watching staff develop and grow into their roles so they are better at what they do than when they walked in. I find it fascinating, interesting and challenging.
Where would you invest a spare $750,000?
I think investing in a syndicate like our Sydney Olympic Park fund, which is a fully let office building with an 8.1% yield and a strong tenant. I always like to do development work, which is the icing on the cake. I am involved in an apartment development in Melbourne. It’s a tough market, but we are getting there with 94% sold out by value. I also like the social infrastructure space, where yields are very good.
Which football team do you support?
I am on the board of the Sydney Swans and went to the grand final victory last year.
What’s your favourite app or techno gadget?
I have an iPhone and an iPad, which I guess are essential for life these days. I also chair LJ Hooker, and they have a good app, I like using Sydney tripview (displays Sydney train/bus/ferry timetable data on your phone).
How do you use social media?
I don’t really use it except to get my wife to check out the Facebook pages of my sons to see how they are doing if I don’t hear from them in a while – they live overseas.
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