Motorbike fan and successful entrepreneur revved up for challenges
A Brisbane businessman shows enthusiasm and passion for a fight that most others would prefer to avoid, writes
O understand how hard businessman Lev Mizikovsky will pursue something, consider his reaction to a $219 fine for crossing a white line on his custom-built Harley-Davidson.
Most people cop the fine. Not Mizikovsky, founder of Brisbane-based homebuilding outfit Tamawood.
He has instead used a road engineer and lawyers to fight the ticket. Then he has taken it to appeal at Brisbane’s District Court.
It’s not the first legal action he or his companies have tackled either. There’s been a defamation case against TV show A Current Affair that he unsuccessfully battled to the High Court. There are copyright stoushes with rival building firms; clashes against council decisions.
That does not make him litigious, Mizikovsky says.
“I think it’s my social responsibility, when things are wrong, to point it out,” he tells The Courier-Mail.
Business is fought with equal resolve. He’s now in the spotlight because he’s aiming, again, to topple a board member of debt chasers Collection House, in which he has a 12 per cent stake.
The Courier-Mail also revealed this month that Mizikovksy has helped pay legal bills of fallen Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale, who is battling charges including corruption. It’s because Pisasale is a friend, Mizikovsky says, adding his dealings with the former politician have always been appropriate.
Mizikovsky has come a long way, born in Russia in 1956. The son of doctors, he grew jaded with the Soviet system.
“It was an awful place,” he says. He describes a system where authorities would get kids to take books out of the school library and burn them, and then issue a new version of history.
He left in his early 20s, heading to Europe, New Zealand and finally Australia in 1988. An architectural draftsman, he and colleagues created Tamawood, whose brands now include Dixon Homes.
His background did not make him a neo-capitalist as opposed to communist.
“In Australia, we have a reasonable balance,” he says.
He has financially thrived in that balance. A survey by The Courier-Mail shows he owns bout $100 million in stocks in four companies – Tamawood, Collection House, home supplies firm Astivita and Advance Nanotek, which makes special materials for products such as sunscreen.
His private entities also own at least 48 properties costing $30.3 million, ranging from Brisbane music hall Leftys to a five-bedroom house in Ipswich.
Mizikovsky, who has four children, can make a hard point with that wealth. Take the traffic ticket. At 1pm on a Sunday in December 2016, Mizikovsky was riding the Harley along the winding Mt Nebo road, just outside Brisbane. As he approached a bend, a policeman behind him video-recorded Mizikovsky allegedly crossing the middle line by 30cm for two seconds.
He lost a magistrate’s court fight against the ticket. Now he has appealed to Brisbane’s District Court. His court filings detail defences: poor road conditions, or that while Mizikovsky did not recall crossing the line, any breach was inadvertent due to the “dynamics of (his) large motorcycle”.
His appeal even argues Pine Rivers Magistrate Trevor Morgan had erred when citing his own motorbike experience. The magistrate had, according to court documents, “expressed doubts about whether the appellant (Mizikovsky) honestly believed that he had not crossed the solid line”.
The police’s defence says Mizikovsky’s appeal lacks merit. The businessman’s wealth also is dyna- mite in corporate fights. Last year, for instance, Mizikovsky questioned the accounting of millions of dollars in software for Collection House.
While Collection House rejected his claims, Mizikovsky’s 12 per cent stake helped vote off the board then audit committee head Phil Hennessy and chairman Kerry Daly.
This year, Mizikovsky, again citing the software, wants to remove new chairman Leigh Berkley. Collection House says it’s a smokescreen to put Mizikovsky’s nominees on the board.
Despite last year’s boardroom execution, Daly, who had worked with Mizikovsky for years at Tamawood, says they still get along. “He’s a complex character,” Daly (pictured) says. “But his integrity and honesty is beyond question.” Mizikovsky says he is not ruthless in business. “It’s unfortunate that (with) a lot of boards, it’s about relationships between directors rather than about the business at hand, which is protecting and hopefully growing shareholder investment,” he says.
One of his arguments against Collection House took aim at boardroom’s potential conflict of interest.
But companies in which Mizikovsky has stakes in also have related-party dealings.
In 2012 and 2013, for instance, he bought 53 properties from Tamawood for almost $25.5 million. It dovetailed with Tamawood buying back shares, bringing $27.81 million for Mizikovsky’s stock. Both deals followed shareholder approval and expert reports described them as fair and reasonable.
Mizikovsky rejects comparisons of the alleged Collection House conflict with his own dealings. The home purchases, for example, were because Tamawood was having trouble offloading houses.
“I took one for the shareholders,” he says of that deal. Property records show he still owns many residential properties from then and some that sold were at a loss.
Nowadays, he gets to relax somewhat more. He’s on a cruise in Europe this month and still rides motorbikes, a hobby of two decades.
“It clears my head,” he says. The businessman no doubt often has many things on his mind.