Tony’s per­fect tim­ing . . .

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK -

Real es­tate doyen Tony McGrath has wit­nessed all the ups and downs of the Port Dou­glas real es­tate mar­ket. He sat down with

WHEN Tony McGrath sees an op­por­tu­nity he doesn’t wait for it to come to him.

He marches right up to that op­por­tu­nity, shakes its hand and says “I’m Tony and we’re go­ing to be friends”.

Through­out his life he’s sold his busi­ness at the drop of a hat, re­lo­cated cross-state on a whim and swapped pro­fes­sions in the blink of an eye.

And he doesn’t have a sin­gle re­gret.

Tony was born in Nar­ran­derra, a town in the Rive­rina re­gion of south­ern New South Wales.

His father was killed in the war when Tony was three and his mother, then a war widow, moved her three chil­dren to Syd­ney.

With a war widow mother liv­ing on a pen­sion Tony said his young life was at times less than glam­orous.

In 1948 the fam­ily moved to Villa­wood where Tony met his first love, horse rac­ing.

For the next few years Tony lived and breathed har­ness rac­ing.

But af­ter a clash with the Gold Coast Trot­ting Club Tony turned away from the horses and found his se­cond great love. Real es­tate.

“I thought about all the agents I knew on the Gold Coast who came to the races and they had end­less sums of money and they weren’t very good judges,” he said.

“So I thought if they can do it then I’m a pos­si­bil­ity.”

He moved back to New South Wales to a place in New­cas­tle called Toronto.

“I even­tu­ally got a job sell­ing land on the side of the road where I would go Satur­day and Sun­day and sit with just a sign that said Land Sale.”

For two years Tony sat on the side of the road.

And af­ter those two years Tony de­cided he had enough ex­pe­ri­ence to open his own real es­tate busi­ness.

“A cou­ple of the lo­cal peo­ple said ‘you’re mad, you’ll go broke’ and I said ‘mate, I won’t go broke, that’s for the other agents, be­cause I will work around the clock to make sure I suc­ceed’.”

Sure enough, it didn’t take Tony long to “grab the game by the throat” and for the next 12 years his busi­ness thrived.

And that would have been enough for Tony if his wife hadn’t sug­gested they up­root their en­tire lives and move to Port Dou­glas.

“In 1986 it hadn’t been de­vel­oped. There was noth­ing here. There were the two pubs and the gen­eral store,” he said.

“But [Christo­pher] Skase had started bull­doz­ing.”

“I de­cided on that first day, with­out even wait­ing a week, that I would move here.

“So I flew home, auc­tioned my house, sold my busi­ness and within three months of get­ting off the plane I was here.”

Christo­pher Skase un­veiled his new five-star Sher­a­ton Mi­rage re­sort in 1988 and trans­formed the sleepy sea­side town of Port Dou­glas into a so­phis­ti­cated trop­i­cal play­ground for the rich and fa­mous.

Celebri­ties such as Tom Hanks, John Tra­volta, Mick Jag­ger and Clau­dia Schif­fer were reg­u­larly spot­ted strolling the palm-fringed sands of Four Mile Beach.

Dur­ing 1986-91 the pop­u­la­tion of Port Dou­glas in­creased 270 per cent to more than 3500. Tony’s tim­ing was per­fect. “I knew I could make a liv- ing here. I knew it was boom­ing enough for me to make a liv­ing,” he said.

“The fact that Skase was do­ing some­thing ac­tu­ally con­vinced me that it should be OK.

“It was all highly spec­u­la­tive at the time. Peo­ple from Mel­bourne were buy­ing things just be­cause of word of mouth.

“A num­ber of guys bought up be­cause they ac­tu­ally thought it would go on for­ever and they were short of so many de­vel­op­ers.

“It lured all sorts of things, peo­ple with wild imag­i­na­tions that thought they knew what things would be worth.”

It didn’t take long for Tony to make a name for him­self and be­fore long he was striv­ing with the best of them.

Tony brought LJ Hooker to Port Dou­glas and en­tered into a part­ner­ship with Chris Har­vey.

To­gether they built the com­pany into a 23 per­son “mon­ster” and presided over the Port Dou­glas real es­tate mar­ket for 10 years.

In 2002 Tony was con­fronted with health is­sues and de­cided to bow out of the real es­tate game.

But he didn’t stay off the horse for long, and en­tered back into the game with The Pink Com­pany that he still runs to this day.

“Peo­ple say to me, ‘ when are you re­tir­ing’ and I say, ‘I’m never go­ing to re­tire, I’ll work as long as I can be­cause it’s good for your brain’,” he said.

“I’ve got a few race horses that keep me pre­oc­cu­pied as well as 24/7 real es­tate.”

Sur­rounded by his two loves, what more could he want?

to re­cap the glory days of the Skase era.

Pic­ture: BRIAN CASSEY

Tony McGrath has sold and leased most of Macrossan Street since he ar­rived in 1986. In­set: A coaster from Tony’s first real es­tate busi­ness. The pink colour­ing of the let­ter­ing in­spired the name of Tony’s cur­rent busi­ness, The Pink Com­pany

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