Still hun­gry for suc­cess

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS - KATH­LEEN SKENE kath­

AMONG the danc­ing and de­li­cious food at the Helm Bar’s Ja­maican Manor in Surfers Par­adise, the bil­lion­aire founder of Hun­gry Jacks sips a Red Stripe beer and waits for Usain Bolt.

Jack Cowin, 75, is in this bar be­cause of his con­nec­tions to Cana­dian sil­ver medal­list, an Aussie wrestler, a Bond Univer­sity stu­dent, a for­mer Miss World and a Ja­maican MP.

But he’s on the Gold Coast for one key rea­son: “the Games”.

The wrestling fan watched Steven Taka­hashik, the Cana­dian son of a friend, win a sil­ver medal on Thurs­day.

To­day he’ll watch Jay­den Lawrence, the Aussie wrestler he spon­sored for four years, take to the mat.

He’s also taken some time for busi­ness, vis­it­ing some of his 20,000 staff on the Coast and in Tweed Heads be­fore em­bark­ing on a packed Games sched­ule.

Mr Cowin fa­mously had the li­cence to start Burger King in Aus­tralia, but found the name al­ready taken by a deter­mined small busi­ness­man who wouldn’t let it go – so Hun­gry Jacks was born in­stead.

For the record, Mr Cowin did not name the chain af­ter him­self.

“I am not ‘Hun­gry Jack’, I’m very well fed as you can prob­a­bly tell,” he says with a smile.

“There was brand of pan­cakes and mashed pota­toes that sold un­der the name Hun­gry Jack’s in the US.

“So was I the founder of the name? No. But it could have been Hun­gry Ge­orge’s, the fact it was Jack’s may have had some­thing to do with the se­lec­tion.”

Three years ear­lier, dur­ing a visit to some friends in Aus­tralia as young man, Mr Cowin saw the po­ten­tial of fast food when he went for a Chi­nese take­away and was stunned to see the line-up of 50 peo­ple wait­ing.

“You didn’t have to be Al­bert Ein­stein. At that stage of the game it was Chi­nese restau­rants, fish and chip shops and white table­cloth restau­rants – there was no fast food, con­ve­nience food in­dus­try,” he said.

“I didn’t have any money, I was mar­ried, had a six-mon­thold child, a mort­gage – I was 25 years old.”

So Mr Cowin got him­self the rights to launch 10 Ken­tucky Fried Chicken stores and did in 1969 what 25-year-olds in 2018 are do­ing when they need cash – he crowd-funded it.

Thirty Cana­dian friends tipped in $10,000 each to help Mr Cowin launch KFC in West­ern Aus­tralia, even­tu­ally start­ing what would be­come Com­pet­i­tive Foods Aus­tralia, a pri­vate com­pany val­ued at more than $350 mil­lion, em­ploy­ing more than 20,000 peo­ple and op­er­at­ing more than 390 Hun­gry Jacks out­lets Aus­tralia-wide.

Mr Cowin sold out of KFC for $55 mil­lion in 2013, but still owns Com­pet­i­tive Foods Aus­tralia, is a ma­jor share­holder and chair­man of pizza chain Domi­nos and owns one of the largest meat pro­ces­sors, Con­sol­i­dated Foods.

His net worth was es­ti­mated by Forbes at US$1.65 bil­lion (A$2.12 bil­lion) this week.

So how did he come to be in the Ja­maican Manor at Helm Bar Surfers Par­adise dur­ing the Com­mon­wealth Games?

Mr Cowin en­joys a close friend­ship with Burger King’s Ja­maican CEO Richard Lake and his wife, for­mer Miss World and Ja­maican Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Lisa Hanna, a close friend of Usain Bolt and a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor on the Cowins’ $50m yacht in the Car­ribbean.

“She knows him re­ally well so she said she’s try­ing to set up for me to meet him – I don’t know whether it will hap­pen or not, I’m sure he’s in de­mand and pop­u­lar – we’ll see what hap­pens.”

Along with wrestlers, Mr Cowin also spon­sors Bond Univer­sity stu­dent Celia In­ner­ar­ity, who is study­ing di­etet­ics in the hope of join­ing the Ja­maican ath­let­ics team to help boost their nu­tri­tion and thereby their medal tally.

Mr Cowin said, if he was 25 years old with a mil­lion dol­lars on the Gold Coast, he’d in­vest it in our top in­dus­try.

“I’d do ex­actly what is al­ready be­ing done and get into the tourism busi­ness,” he said.

“We have a pop­u­la­tion of 24 mil­lion – there are 1.3 bil­lion Chi­nese and we get one per cent of the tourism busi­ness.

“As the af­flu­ence of China in­creases, they’re go­ing to travel more and more – we’re on the same time zone, the sea­sons are dif­fer­ent.

“The Gold Coast is well-po­si­tioned for that.”


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