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

The Courier-Mail - - BUSINESS -

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.

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