“NOTHING TO FEAR”
Underworld figure John Ibrahim talks exclusively to Stellar about his colourful past ahead of the release of his book.
He has long attracted infamy as an underworld identity. Now the elusive John Ibrahim, widely known as the king of Kings Cross, is about to tell his colourful story in his own words. Ahead of the release of his autobiography later this month, he talks to Stellar about why he has broken his silence, his preferred dinner companions – and how his mum truly believed that her son ran restaurants for a living
For someone who has not courted publicity, even despises it, why did you decide to finally write a book? I would rather tell my own story than have someone with no idea and dubious sources do it. How did the process work? Did you write it yourself? And are you happy with the end result? I started writing in the notes section of my iphone from hospital the night my brother Fadi was shot [Fadi Ibrahim survived being shot five times when he and his then girlfriend and now wife Shayda Bastani were ambushed by a gunman outside his home in Sydney in June 2009], and I couldn’t stop. Yes, I did write it all myself – anyone reading the end result will be able to tell that. I’m happy it’s done, but there was always the feeling more could’ve been put in and more could’ve been taken out. Your mum is clearly a strong influence on your life and in the book you apologise for the attention you have brought to your family. How did she respond to that? And do you really think she believed you ran restaurants? Originally the
Tunnel was a restaurant and cabaret venue, so when I was 18 and living with Mum at home she did believe that. Did you show your family the book before you pushed go with the publisher? Of course. All but my brother Sam, who is in jail. It is an interesting argument that the troubles for your brother Sam really started with one line of cocaine – do you wish you could turn back time knowing what you know now? And what would you give up to be able to do that? It’s pretty clear in the book what I would and wouldn’t do. You say you hate the nickname Teflon John. Is that because it implies you got away with things you shouldn’t have, when you didn’t do anything in the first place? I hate the name because of the reasons in your question. It also paints a bullseye on my back for overzealous policing. There is an interesting passage in your book when you say you don’t like the thought that ordinary punters feel threatened by you. How do you deal with that? The ordinary punter has nothing to fear from me. Running nightclubs is what I do for a living, so keeping the environment safe for them to spend money was my job. It’s called the hospitality industry. If there was one person who you could kill and get away with it, who would it be? And what did they do? Not a question I will answer. If you had to invite three underworld figures to dinner – living or dead – who would they be and why? I would never go to dinner with three underworld figures, dead or alive. That’s work. I go to dinner with friends. Is there anyone in particular that you’re happy is in jail or dead? Not a question I will answer. What will you tell your daughter about your life when she is old enough to understand? Leave my daughter out of this. Which was your favourite nightclub and why? The Tunnel. It had my name on the door as licensee for 28 years of history. Why did you go to such lengths to publicly hide the clubs you were involved in, except the Tunnel, but then in your book you just say straight out how many clubs you owned or part owned? I didn’t hide and if I did it was in plain sight. I just preferred to give myself a fair chance, especially after the baggage associated with my name in the aftermath of the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service.
“I’D NEVER GO TO DINNER WITH THREE UNDERWORLD FIGURES”
CLUB KING (clockwise from left) John Ibrahim in Kings Cross in 2009; stepping out in 2014; Ibrahim’s life was the inspiration for the TV series Underbelly: The
Golden Mile; the Tunnel nightclub; (opposite) a fake mug shot from the cover of his book.