submitted by George Poulos on 16.06.2005
Nick Politis is one of five Australian-Kytherian’s to receive Australian honours in 2014. On the Queen’s birthday he was made a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia, for significant service to rugby league football as an administrator.
He could equally have been bestowed with the honour as one of Kytherian-Australia’s, Greek-Australia’s, and Australia’s most prominent and successful businessmen.
His AM citation also mentions: Philanthropic supporter to a range of charitable organisations, ongoing.
A Kytherian and Greek Immigrants story.
The Politis story begins during the early period of the 20th century in the two major centres of the Kytherian diaspora – Egypt and Constantinople. It then devolves on the village of Karavas, Kythera. Dimitrios Kosmas Patrikios, (1860-1930), born in Karavas, migrated to Egypt as a young boy. He became a great cotton merchant and property owner in Alexandria. He was a significant benefactor to the island, donating funds to create a ‘port’ for Kythera, and in 1934-1935, with money left in his will, his descendants built the ‘Patrikio skoli’ – the Agricultural School in central Karavas.
George Nicholas Politis was born in the area around Constantinople. His family’s early life was disrupted by events in the Pontian region of Greece in the period leading up to ‘the catastrophe’ of 1922. As a young boy, the family relocated to Athens. As a young adult he gained skills and qualifications in agricultural science. Soon after the Agricultural School was constructed, he was enticed to migrate to Kythera, and take up the position of ‘thiapontos’ – agricultural teacher. He maintained this position until 1940. The enterprise was fully funded by the Dimitrios Patrikios bequest. With the advent of WWII, the fund for the agricultural school ‘dried up’, and the school was appropriated by the military. Subsequently it has occasionally been rented out as a private residence. In most of the past seven decades, however, it has been used as a place to grow agricultural products, and as a civic centre. It continues to be used for these purposes today.
George Politis settled quickly into the Karavas community, and in 1940 he married Aryiro Evangalos Venardos – parachoukli “Mull-yaros”. Aryiro is the sister of Panayotis ‘Bulli’ Venardos, who along with Poppy, continue to run the ‘cafenion’ opposite the church of Ayios Haralambos in Karavas. Other brothers and sisters included Zafaria, Emmanuel (Bill), Minas (Mick) and Poppy, the high school teacher (‘i thaskalos). Only the latter remained in Greece with Panayotis. All the others migrated to Australia. As of 2014, the surviving siblings are Aryiro and Panayotis.
Patrikio skoli, Karavas, in its heyday.
Nicholas (Nick) George Politis was born at the Patrikio skoli in Karavas, Kythera in 1942. After WWII George Politis and family relocated to Athens.
Zafaria Venardos was sponsored to Australia by Mick and Bill Venardos. She married George Petrohilos, originally from Fratsia, who had been in Australia for some time. In 1950 the Venardos brothers sponsored George Politis and family to Australia. The Politis family departed from the port city of Piraeus on the migrant ship – Kirinea. Another passenger on this ship recalls that “the trip was exhausting and took 30 days. During this time we attended English language classes. We were treated very well on the ship; we were entertained by musicians, and were shown movies about our new country.” The ship berthed in Melbourne. Bill Venardos drove down from Queensland to meet the family, and drove them back to Queensland. The Politis family first went to Ipswich, which lies 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the Brisbane CBD, and stayed for a year or more. In 1952 Mick Venardos went to Blackhall, to run the Central Cafe with his brother Bill. The Central Cafe had a long history from the 1920’s of Kytherian ownership through the Cominos and Logos families.
Blackall is a small town and rural locality in the Blackall-Tambo Region in central west Queensland, Australia. Named after Sir Samuel Blackall, the second Governor of Queensland, it lies approximately 960 kilometres (600 mi) by road from the state capital, Brisbane. The town is situated on the Barcoo River and Landsborough Highway (Matilda Highway). At the 2011 census Blackhall had a population of 1,588. It is the service centre for the Blackall-Tambo Region. The dominant industry in the area is grazing.
The Venardos family were heavily involved in Rugby League. Angelo Venardos played Rugby League for Toowoomba in the Bulimba Cup competition. He now lives at Forest Beach. Bill Venardos was President of the Blackhall Rugby League Club, and a senior Administrator in Queensland Rugby League. He was also a prominent local government administrator, as well as a former president of the Kytherian Association of Queensland. His achievements were sufficiently prominent to warrant an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
In 1953 George Politis decided to move to Blackhall, and with a partner, Peter Aloysios purchased the Central Cafe from the Vernardos brothers. View / download a copy of the history of the Central Cafe, from a plaque created by the Blackhall City Council, here:
Blackhall Plaque Central Cafe.pdf
Maria, George and Aryiro’s second child was born in Blackhall at this time. Maria would eventually go to Greece to study as a young adult, marry Dr John Tsellonis, and decide to reside in Greece permanently. Nick attended year four primary school at Blackhall. One of his classmates describes him as a likeable and boisterous boy.
The Politis family. George and Aryiro, with children Nick and Maria. 1958.
The Politis family stayed in Blackhall for another few years before selling their half share in the Central Cafe to Peter Aloysios’ brother Mick. The family then returned to Brisbane. From 1958 George Politis made a number of astute property purchases in Brisbane. He also developed properties, including a commercial block of shops opposite the Princess Alexandra Hospital on Ipswich Road, Wooloongabba. George moved the family from Ipswich to Saint Lucia, where the University of Queensland is located. George and Aryiro’s last ‘shop keeping’ venture seems to have been purchasing a cinema at West End in South Brisbane, which they ran for 2 or 3 years and then sold. They subsequently retired.
George died in 1986. Aryiro is 97 years of old and very much alive. She spends her time on Kythera and in Athens. Kytherians who know her gain immense pleasure from meeting her in Ayia Pelagia and engaging her in conversation, during the Kytherian summer.
Nick Politis was educated at Ipswich Grammar School, for the final four years of high school (1956-1960). Nick was one of four Army Cadets under Officers in his senior year and was identified as having ‘leadership qualities’. Ipswich Grammar is one of the oldest educational institutions in Queensland (151 years old in 2014). The School takes great pride in ‘advertising’ the achievements of its most prominent ‘old boys’ who include Sydney Harbour Bridge designer John Bradfield, former Chief of Army and military historian Lieutenant General John Coates, and retired High Court Judge Harry Gibbs, and of course, influential Sydney businessman Nick Politis. The School has also produced many of Australia’s elite sportsmen.
Whilst at school, Nick was a ‘cafe kid’; he worked in a fruit shop to supplement his income. For more information about cafe culture in Queensland, with particular reference to Ipswich, see Toni Rissons’ Aphrodite and the Mixed Grill. From Ipswich Grammar School Nick followed the pathway of so many other children of Kytherian and Greek immigrants of his generation, into tertiary education. He attended the University of Queensland where he graduated in Commerce and Economics. A career with the Ford motor company would follow.
Nick is a private, almost guarded person. Something of a ‘mystery man’ to the media, he rarely gives interviews or speaks publicly. ‘I sit back, watch. You learn more that way’, he says. He is also a very tough man. Speaking about the ‘tough times’ at the Roosters, 2009-2012, he philosophises: “It (was) the toughest two or three years. It was tough but that's sport. It's all about the experience. You get addicted because you can't bank the results. If money could buy the results, all the billionaires in the world would have the trophy. You've got to be ready to take the fall and you've got to stand (during adversity). The character of people comes out when you're going bad, not when you're going well. When things go bad, that's when you've got to stay strong.” Loyalty is another trait that Nick values. He has often supported employees, friends and associates long after continuing to provide that support is in his best interest. “The thing in life is that you've got to support people when they get in trouble if they are good people,” Politis says. “That's what (I try and) do”.
As his AM citation states Nick is a philanthropic supporter to a range of charitable organisations, ongoing. In Greek we would could him a ‘sporti’. Don’t bother to sit down, however, and try and chronicle the depth and breadth of his philanthropy and benefaction. Chances are that only those who are the beneficiaries will ever know that it was he who provided the funds. He is not the kind of person who feels the need to have his benefaction acknowledged.
As he has grown older, many have noticed that he has increasingly embraced, and engaged with, his Kytherian and Greek roots. Of Kythera he says - “I just love the place”. He has visited Kythera more often over the past decade, and recently developed three units and a shop on the southern end of the beach at Ayia Pelagia, Kythera. The size of the development is modest by his standards, but the quality of the development and integration into the streetscape is superior. The shame is that so few other developers on Kythera follow his lead.
More recently he and other like minded Pelagian’s have formed a group whose purpose is to enhance the beauty and cleanliness of the Ayia Pelagia area, particularly the area on the sea frontage. Ayia Pelagia is the cleanest and best maintained beach on Kythera.
Nick Politis interest in the sporting world and business are inextricably intertwined. Somehow he has managed to balance and integrate his interest in both worlds. We will return to Nick’s career with Ford and his emergence as one of Australia’s most influential automotive dealers shortly. Firstly let’s examine his involvement in sport, and his emergence as.........
The consummate Rugby League chief executive
In almost 40 years, Nick Politis has been the central figure in some of the most momentous events, and the biggest ‘deals’, in the 105-year history of the code of Rugby League. His involvement in what would later become the National Rugby League (NRL) began in 1976, when a group of Kings Cross detectives nicknamed the ‘Darlo Desperates’, who included legendary South Sydney player, Jack Rayner, introduced Nick Politis to NSW Rugby League (NSW RL) supremo John Quayle and Eastern Suburbs Roosters CEO Ron Jones. Initially, NSW Rugby League boss Kevin Humphreys rejected Politis' proposal to sponsor the Eastern Suburbs Roosters with City Ford in 1975. In 1976, Nick broke new ground in marketing, when City Ford became the first company to sponsor a team in the NSW RL. For his first foray into rugby league, budding businessman Politis brokered a three-year $150,000 deal to have his City Ford car dealership emblazoned on the front of the Roosters jersey as major sponsor. By 1977, St George, Manly, Cronulla and every club in Sydney were brokering deals to tap into the new revenue stream. Retrospectively Politis’ idea can be assessed as a visionary and pioneering deal that altered the nature of sponsorship across many sports. I also constituted very good value for money.
In 1993 Nick moved from being sponsor to Chairman of the Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club (Sydney Roosters). He assumed the Chairmanship from Keith Steele. Long standing secretary-manager Ron Jones, stood down at the same time.
Many believe that the transformation of the Sydney Roosters coincided with Politis appointment. Hand-picking his own team of directors, which in recent years has included James Packer, Channel Nine boss David Gyngell, Mark Bouris of Wizard Home Loans and Yellow Brick Road, mining identity Peter ‘Talky’ Newton and Premier Retail chief executive Mark McInnes, Shine Australia CEO Mark Fennessy, the Roosters have sometimes not had to hold board elections for more than 10 years at a time, as there have not been disgruntled members to challenge them.
“There's no doubt that the current success of the club is the result of 15 years of hard work by Nick," said former ARL general manager John Quayle, a member of the Roosters' 1975 grand-final-winning team. “If you go back to the mid-1980s when the league was looking very closely at its struggling clubs, Easts were one of those ... so to turn things around the way they have is a tribute to Nick and his board. The changes he introduced brought stability and a professionalism ... which is now the benchmark of how a football club should be administered and coached.” Nick Politis is the Roosters. Around the club they call him ‘Uncle Nick’ or ‘The Godfather’.
Around the Roosters Rugby League Football club they call him ‘Uncle Nick’ or ‘The Godfather’
“We needed to restore the Roosters DNA to the place,” Politis has asserted. “I don’t want to detract from anyone who worked here before, but we really wanted to get people back who had a feeling for this club. When we did that, I remember one of the staff rang me and thanked me for getting them back. That call meant a lot to me.” Roosters sources reveal that from time to time ‘he still dips into his vast fortune to a ‘significant degree’, when other high-profile figures on his board do not’. “Nick is the driving force of the Roosters,” says Channel Nine chief executive David Gyngell, a former director, and close Politis ally. “He has built a cult of loyalty in staff, players and friends who love the club. People often think he's all passion but he's not. He's very strategic and will always make his calls based on smart long-term decisions that are good for the club.”
The Roosters Rugby League Football club won the Premiership in 2002.
The Roosters success has been obscured somewhat by the fact that the club has reached six grand finals in the past 13 years – and won only two of them. But, Politis rightly asserts “this is a record only matched by the Melbourne Storm. People forget that record. This is a great record.” Nick Politis is obsessed by the Roosters. He is a Roosters man through and through. If you're looking for proof, ask him to roll up his sleeve. Before the grand final in 2002, Nick, not a man enamoured of tattoo’s, had a Roosters logo tattooed on his arm. Before the grand final Nick said to the team: “You have to win.... don’t let me down... because you can’t take these tattoos off easily.” Subsequent to the 2002 Grand Final win – the first Roosters premiership since Nick first sponsored the team in 1976 - most of the Roosters players joined their Chairman in getting a premiership logo tattoos as well. “I'm very passionate about sport and the club. It becomes a part of your life.”
Nick gained immense satisfaction from the Roosters Grand final victory in 2013. For a precious moment on that Sunday night in October chairman Nick Politis savoured the chance to watch from afar. “As players, coaches, staff, board members and sponsors celebrated after full-time, the proud patriarch of Bondi sat alone a few rows from the fence and silently contemplated the jubilation. I just wanted to sit there for a while and take it all in by myself. I was sitting near the sidelines and everyone else had gone out on the field to celebrate. Everyone had jumped up, but I thought I'd sit back before I joined them. It was a very special moment.”
Nick Politis, congratulating half back Mitchell Pearce after the 2013 grand final win by the Roosters
Analysing the performance later, Politis explained, “When we last won in 2002, we were in the mix and had been in the Grand Final just two years earlier. But the previous two years (2011, 2012) we finished 11th and 13th. No-one gave us a chance to win in the off-season. Not only did we win, but we broke a lot of records. We won the minor premiership, our for and against was the best-ever, and we held six teams scoreless.”
“How does that happen”, journalist Josh Massoud asked?
“It's about belief, and that's what ‘Robbo’ (coach, Trent Robinson) was able to instil in everyone this year. I noticed over the last few months of the season, no one doubted we were going to win. There was always going to be a next week. So even when we were down 18-8 in the second half, the players didn’t stop believing they would win. And if you believe in something strongly enough, it usually happens.” You can watch a very enthusiastic Nick Politis interviewed in the ‘sheds’, after the 2013 Grand Final win at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkcwHsX-X_Q
The Super League war. Politis maintains his loyalty.
Those not au fait with Rugby League and its history, may not understand what the Super League war was. The Super League war was the corporate dispute that was fought in and out of court during the mid-1990s between the Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation-backed Super League (Australia) and the Kerry Packer and Optus Vision-backed Australian Rugby League organisations, over broadcasting rights for, and ultimately control of the top-level professional rugby league football competition of Australasia. After much court action from the already-existing ARL to prevent it from happening, Super League ran one premiership season parallel to the ARL's in 1997 after signing enough clubs disenchanted with the traditional administration to do so. At the conclusion of that season a peace deal was reached and both Leagues united to form the National Rugby League of today.
During the Super League war, Politis spent long periods overseas attending to other business interests. At the time, his mobile phone would go off at all hours of the night with executives from News Limited, publisher of The Sunday Telegraph, attempting to lure the Roosters from the ARL side of the fence. Had Politis, Gould, Ken Arthurson and John Quayle not stuck solid, the ARL would have been doomed. Politis, ever true to his dictum of loyalty, couldn’t betray his friend, ARL supremo John Quayle, despite the money on offer. This loyalty also helped secure the future of many Sydney-based NRL clubs, most of which were destined for extinction under the Super League ‘model’.
“If he'd jumped it would have been the end of the ARL and a lot of our clubs here in Sydney,” says Rugby League commentator, administrator, and fellow 2014 AM recipient, Phil Gould. “You can't believe the amount of pressure they put on him, but he hung in there … I honestly doubt that today we would have the Roosters if it wasn't for Nick.” John Quayle, to this day one of Politis' best mates, agrees: “History has never marked how important that stand was; what it meant to so many Sydney clubs.”
The Roosters culture is more akin to a close knit family, rather than an institution. A typical ‘family’ gesture occurred when Roosters legend Artie Beetson fell on hard times. Legendary Roosters coach Jack Gibson arranged a testimonial dinner. With the $400,000 raised, they bought Beetson a house in Newtown. After a nearly 40-year association with the Roosters ‘family’, Nick was asked in 2010 if he was tempted to end his association with the club. He replied: “Not at this stage. But eventually it's going to happen. I haven't got too many good summers left, you know. Somebody sooner or later will take over from me. Hopefully whoever takes over can continue the good work.” Alternatively, it may prove to be the case that Politis will remain, a Rooster for life?
Beyond his involvement with the Roosters, Nick Politis has held a number of senior positions in rugby league at the NSW and Australian levels. In 1996 he was appointed as a Director of the New South Wales Rugby League Club, a position he maintained until the year 2000. In 1997 Politis was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Australian Rugby League. He was a member of the Board for the duration of the Super League war, and again, maintained a directorship until the year 2000. After ‘peace was declared’, Politis was appointed in 1998 as a Director, of the Partnership Executive Committee, of the National Rugby League. He maintained this directorship until 2011.Throughout his Rugby League administrative career Nick maintained positions that ensured that he was one of the most powerful and influential figures in Australian Rugby League.
Involvement in other sports. The Sports Hall of Fame, Soccer and the Sydney Olympics
In September 2000, through an initiative of the Millennium Heritage Council, under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Greek Australian Sports Hall of Fame was established. Its purpose was to record and research the sporting achievements attained by Australians of Greek heritage who have distinguished themselves at either a National or International level.
As a result, 166 sports people were inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame, in the presence of the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos, and the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. John Howard, during the unforgettable Millennium Ball held on Saturday, 2nd September, 2000, at the Westin Hotel in Sydney.
The evening was a historic milestone that revealed how vast the contribution was, by citizens of Greek descent, to Australian and world sport, in a very wide range of disciplines. Sports people travelled from all over Australia to attend the memorable event and felt enormous pride and honour at their induction. Nick Politis was amongst the first group of inductees.
In February 2000 Politis was honoured with an appointment as the Attaché to the Greek Olympic Team at the Sydney Olympic Games. On June 4th, he carried the Olympic flame along Bay Street in Brighton Le Sands, with great pride.
The late Rita Comino hands over the Olympic torch to Nick Politis, in Bay Street, Brighton le Sands, June 4, 2000.
Nick Politis also had a brief six year involvement with the soccer club, Sydney Olympic, which had been founded by Greek migrants as Pan Hellenic in the 1950s. In 1998 Sydney Olympic was a member of the now-defunct National Soccer League (NSL). The club was being rejuvenated and privatised, and big business was circling. For a moment, it looked as if legendary stockbroker Rene Rivkin would take control of the club, but at the 11th hour Nick Politis decided to throw his lot in with a consortium labelled the Friends of Sydney Olympic.
Nick Balagiannis coined the phrase ‘five filthy rich Greeks’ to describe the new owners. Nick Politis was not fond of the epithet – it runs counter to his humble and understated style – but the local press keenly ‘ran with it’. The new owners envisaged a bright future for the club.
A number of factors contributed to the demise of the NSL. Chief among them was the loss of lucrative television rights revenue after the withdrawal of Channel Seven’s C7 Sports in 2002. By 2004 the NSL had ceased to exist. Having poured millions of dollars into the club with very little likelihood of a ‘turnaround’, Nick Politis resigned his position at the club, along with the Friends of Sydney Olympic chairman, Peter Raskopulos. When Sydney FC was being formed to take its place in the A-League (2004-2005) Nick was quick to quash unfounded rumours that he would become an owner or co-owner of the club.
Nick is very sanguine about the amount of money he has expended on sport, and the ability of anyone to make money out of sport. “I haven't seen anyone make money out of sport in Australia. It's a country of 22 million and we've got four types of football. It doesn't stack up. Think of the world - what other country that size has so many clubs? We've got 16 NRL clubs, we've got 16 AFL clubs, and we’ve got soccer, five rugby union franchises - all for 22 million.”
Throughout his life, Nick Politis kicked a lot more economic goals by involving himself with the Ford motor company, and the Australian automotive industry. In the final sections of this biographical sketch it is time for us to turn away from his involvement in sport, and endeavour to explain how Nick became one of the most influential automotive dealers in Australia; amassing a very substantial fortune in the process. The Ford story begins soon after he graduated from High School.
Ford. A very YES place to be involved in.
"yes...yes...yes...,City Ford says yes more often"
Career counselling in his final year of school at Ipswich Grammar steered Nick Politis towards a career in sales. Upon completing University, Nick joined the Ford Graduates Trainee Program. And after 12 months in Melbourne his new career was in sales and marketing. From regional manager in the early 1970s, he moved on to take over from Jack Stratigos as the Queensland State Manager for Ford. He was an employee of the Ford Motor Company from 1966 until 1974.
In 1974 Nick bought the Wright Ford car dealership business in Sydney and changed its name to City Ford. He made the purchase through a corporation called WFM Motors Pty Ltd, trading as City Ford. He maintained that entity until 2001, when he sold the business. He continued to trade beyond 2001 as WFM Motors Pty Ltd, still engaged in the motor trade, as the owner of numerous motor vehicle franchises, car dealerships and properties.
His marketing skills were extraordinary. Even two decades after Australians last saw and heard the Ford advertisements - "yes...yes...yes...,City Ford says yes more often" – the jingle is indelibly etched on the collective Australian psyche. The secret to selling cars, Nick believes, is the same as running a successful club. ''You have to be prepared to work hard, be very enthusiastic and not give up. You need perseverance. Enthusiasm”.
Additionally, his work ethic, knowledge of the automotive industry, his business acumen and instinct, are extraordinary. He seems to know intuitively when to buy into and when to sell out of various businesses.
WFM Motors Pty Ltd has enjoyed a sustained period of economic expansion. To track this business development for 1974 to 2001, and from 2001 to date, is well beyond the scope of this biographical sketch. Suffice to say, the development was based on astute and strategic purchases and sales, which engendered great success.
This culminated in early April 2014, when Nick finalised an agreement with listed South African company Barloworld one of Australia’s largest Volkswagen dealerships in a deal worth about $130 million. “Barloworld is a good South African company and is expanding into other areas,” Politis explains. “They are also very big in mining and Caterpillar machinery.” Barloworld Motor Australia represents Holden, HSV, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen with nine dealerships. As part of the deal, Politis bought seven dealerships in Melbourne and Sydney, including the Mercedes-Benz dealership in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton, and a dealership on the Mornington Peninsula. The transaction also included a Holden dealership in Melbourne’s Glen Waverley and four Volkswagen outlets — two each in Sydney and Melbourne.
The properties of the two Melbourne dealerships, worth at least $70m, were included in the sale. However, the total value of the transaction is far less than industry sources had conjectured — between $250m and $500m. They said early in April 2014, that Politis was unlikely to be able to secure all nine dealerships, suggesting two would probably be sold if he bought the entire business to avoid market concentration issues. This is an example of yet another astute and timely purchase of a business by Nick Politis. The purchase also returned a significant segment of the automotive industry from overseas to Australian control.
Nick Politis has been a Member of the Motor Traders' Association of NSW, since 1985.
Nick Politis even greater involvement in the automotive industry is through a very significant shareholding in a Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) listed company called A. P Eagers Limited (AP Eagers). The history of AP Eagers is an intriguing one.
AP Eagers. A Driving Force. 101 years of successful involvement in the Australian Automotive Industry.
“AP Eagers currently represents both the best-selling and luxury brands, has nearly 100 dealerships, including their formidable bus and truck operations. And though still a purely automotive business they have acquired a great deal of prime real estate. The transformation of the corporation over a century is a fascinating story, of how the entity has read the prospective market and catered accordingly”.
2013 heralded 100 years involvement in the automotive Industry in Australia, for A.P. Eagers Limited. A brief history of the company’s emergence and growth is provided below. (You can access and download a more substantial history, in the e-book, A Driving Force. A. P. Eagers Centenary. 1913-2013, at http://www.apeagers.com.au/100-years/centenary-history-book/
You can access, listen to, and view an interesting audiovisual history of AP Eagers at the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame web-site at: http://leaders.slq.qld.gov.au/inductees/a-p-eagers-limited/
Most of what ensures below derives from the e-book A Driving Force.
1913: E.G. Eagers & Son Pty Ltd established by Messrs Edward and Fred Eager.
1922: Eagers installs the first motor vehicle assembly plant in Queensland.
1930: General Motors-Holden franchises acquired.
1957: Eagers Holdings Limited listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.
1992: Eagers merges with A.P. Group Ltd, a company of which Mr Alan Piper was the majority shareholder, operating Ford, Toyota, Honda and Land Rover franchises.
1993-98: Porsche, VW, KIA, Volvo, Mazda and MG Rover franchises acquired.
2000: Mr Nick Politis’ WFM Motors Pty Ltd acquires a substantial interest after the death of Alan Piper.
2001: Metro/Torque Ford and Toyota business acquired.
2002: A.P. Eagers posts a record pre-tax profit of $12.3M and acquires Jaguar franchise.
2003: Market capitalization passes $100M.
2004: City Automotive Group Pty Ltd acquired in July with Mitsubishi, Subaru and Peugeot franchises. Record Group pre-tax profit of $17.2M achieved.
2005: Record Group pre-tax profit of $19.1 million achieved, turnover surpasses $1 billion.
A.P. Eagers acquires first interstate franchise, Bridge Toyota, in Darwin. Shareholders enjoyed capital growth and increased income – ‘That’s what we’re there for’, declared Nick Politis recently, ‘to give value to shareholders’. AP Eagers is proud of its consistent earnings and dividends that are not dependent solely on vehicle sales, but rest as well on the Company’s parts and service operations.
2006: Brisbane Motor Auctions and Bayside Honda/Kia businesses acquired in first quarter.
Hidden Valley Ford and the Stuart Motor Group Darwin acquired August 2006.
Record group pre-tax profit of $36.8million achieved inclusive of a $15million profit on sale of surplus property.
2007: Record group pre-tax trading profit of $40 million achieved on turnover of $1.67 billion.
Surfers City Holden, Saab and Hummer acquired in August 2007.
Kloster Motor Group acquired in February 2007. Klosters is the largest automotive retailer in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley region of New South Wales with exclusive representation for BMW / Mini, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Suzuki and VW.
2008: Bill Buckle Auto Group acquired in March 2008. The Bill Buckle Auto Group is the premier motor dealership group in Sydney’s Northern Beaches region of Brookvale and Mosman and was AP Eagers first acquisition in the Sydney market. They operate four premium brands, Toyota, Volkswagen, Subaru and Audi.
2009: Record group net profit before tax of $52.5 million, record underlying profit before tax of $50.1 million and record annual dividend of 62 cents per share.
2010: Late 2010 witnessed further expansion of the group’s truck and bus operations with the acquisition of Western Star, MAN, Dennis Eagle and Foton truck franchises at Sydney Truck Centre in Narellan, NSW, and Hyundai truck franchises at both Dandenong, Victoria, and Regency Park, South Australia, together with the Higer bus franchises at both Regency Park, South Australia and Narellan, NSW.
Adtrans Group was acquired in late 2010. Adtrans, the premier automotive retailer in South Australia, was A P Eagers’ initial entry into the South Australian and Victorian markets with Adtrans operating 7 car brands and 8 truck and bus brands across South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.
Caloundra City Autos group of dealerships acquired in April 2010. Caloundra City Autos operate five brands, Holden, Honda, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and Great Wall on two prime sites in Queensland’s growing Sunshine Coast region.
2011: Daimler Trucks Adelaide was acquired in September 2011. This business represents Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner and Fuso products, including trucks, buses and vans, and was relocated to our existing Regency Park site.
Eblen Motors, located at Glenelg and Angaston, South Australia, and representing Subaru, Suzuki and Isuzu Ute, was acquired in March 2011 to complement Adtrans’ existing motor vehicle operations.
2012: Carzoos was established to provide used car buyers with the Carzoos Happiness Guarantee and a 48 hour money back guarantee.
In July 2012 AP Eagers purchased a stake in listed Perth-based Automotive Holdings Group, or AHG. By year’s end, AP Eagers had increased its stake to 19%, just below the trigger for notifying the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) of a takeover.
Record earnings per share (EPS) of 34 cents.
2013: AP. Eagers celebrates its centenary on 7 January 2013.
Main North Nissan and Renault and Unley Nissan and Renault, Adelaide, were acquired in September 2013 to complement the group’s strongly performing SA cars division. AP Eagers reported 2013 annual revenue was up 1% to $2.67 billion, and statutory net profit was $64 million for a 15% gain. Earnings per share (EPS) rose to a record of 36.4 cents.
Precision Automotive Technology was established as a new business to source and distribute their own range of car care products under the brand names, Perfexion and 365+.
2014: On July 16, 2014, AP Eagers provided earnings guidance for the half-year ended June 30, 2014. The company expects to achieve a record profit result for the half-year ended June 30. Operating profit is forecast around $46 million, up 10% from $42.0 million for the corresponding period of 2013, and net profit is expected to be $33.5 million, up 7% from $31.4 million, due to non-recurring tax deductions in 2013.
He who pays the piper, tunes the cars
The critical year for Nick Politis involvement in AP Eagers Ltd was 2000. On March 31st, Nick Politis, through his private company WFM Motors Pty Ltd, acquired a substantial interest of three million shares in AP Eagers Ltd - thus heading the list of shareholders - with a holding 34.69 per cent. In April 2014, this shareholding was worth $319.9 million.
The lead into this purchase occurred when Alan Piper, long-standing executive at Eagers, became ill. Continuity within Eagers was assured with Ken Macdonald remaining as Managing Director and Dennis Hull continuing as Company Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, and it was understood that all employees would continue to support them. The meeting was assured that from an operational point of view the Company was ‘as strong as ever’, and there was an indication from Nick Politis that he would accept a seat on the Board should one be offered. The Board had no doubt that with his extensive motor industry interests in Australia and abroad he would add significantly to the Company’s future. In other words AP Eagers were banking on his impeccable economic credentials, and his profile in the industry – the Greeks would call it charisma or ‘hurisma’ - to enhance the status and performance of the company.
Alan Piper, despite his serious illness, had planned for the structure of the business to remain in good hands and had asked Nick Politis to take an interest in the Company. Nick was appointed a Director on 5 May 2000, less than a month after Alan’s death. They went back a long way, having been ‘Ford dealers together’, as Nick explains; recalling Alan Piper’s years at Torque Ford and Coachcraft. Both had been part of the Ford graduate training programme, though Alan was younger. Both were sports fanatics: Alan had been Chairman of the Brisbane Lions Australian Rules Football Club while Nick was Chairman of the Sydney Roosters Rugby League Football Club. They gave birth to the current concept of corporate sponsorship for sporting clubs.
Gradually the story of the share transfer emerged, how at Pipers’ instigation Ben Macdonald rang Nick Politis on his mobile phone unexpectedly one Sunday. They knew of each other but had never met. Alan was not well and had told Ben he had only a couple of months to live. ‘He wants you to buy his stake’, said Ben, ‘he trusts you to do the right thing by his family’. Nick Politis who was about to board a flight overseas, without hesitation or fuss said: ‘Tell him I’ll buy his shares and I will come and see him as soon as I get back.’ The rest is history.
Denis Alan Aitken was appointed a Director on 30 March 2001, and would serve in that capacity until 31 March 2006. He was a Director of Auto Group Ltd, and a Director and Deputy Chairman of WFM Motors Pty Ltd. Nick Politis was described as a Motor Vehicle Dealer, Chairman of Ford’s Sydney RJV, and a Director and Executive Chairman of a substantial number of Proprietary Limited companies. WFM Motors Pty Ltd, Nick Politis’ private company, headed the list of shareholders, holding 34.69 per cent of AP Eagers in 2000. Nick Politis on 5 September 2000 had sought shareholder approval to increase his stake in AP Eagers through the acquisition of 2,300,000 shares from Damelian Automobile Ltd at $4.70 per share. This was approved by shareholders at an Extraordinary General Meeting on 8 November 2000. They had been assured by the Chairman that there was no indication from Nick Politis or Rick Damelian of a desire to take over the Company, and that ‘it was necessary to endorse a cornerstone investor with strong motor industry skills’. The meeting heard from Nick Politis that car manufacturers, unlike other industries, identiﬁed with personalities, not with companies. They had identiﬁed with Alan Piper and the inference was clear that now they would identify with him.
Further synergies between AP Eagers and WFM Motors were achieved in 2004. AP Eagers had acquired all the shares in City Automotive Group Pty Ltd on 1 July 2004, and the associated land and buildings, from WFM Motors, for $14.1 million. This brought them the City Mitsubishi, City Subaru and City Peugeot franchises, all conveniently situated at Newstead, adjoining the property recently bought by the Company from the Reliance Worldwide Manufacturing Group. This was achieved with shareholder approval of a special resolution, Board members Nick Politis and Denis Aitken being also directors of WFM Motors did not vote on the resolution. Shareholders were advised that this acquisition was a ‘key plank’ in the Directors’ strategy to grow the Company, and that an independent expert had found the move fair and reasonable to non-associated shareholders. That year a record Group pre-tax proﬁt of $17.2 million was achieved by AP Eagers.
Perth based Automotive Holdings Group AHG is the largest automotive dealer listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). AP Eagers is the second largest automotive dealer on the ASX. AP Eagers has made many strategic purchases. One of its most strategic occurred with the purchase of a very substantial stake in Automotive Holdings Group during the course of 2012. In 2013, AP Eagers biggest gain in earnings came from its investments - predominantly its 19.57% stake in Automotive Holdings Group.
AHG has 152 and 87 dealerships around Australia, and in New Zealand, but it has the lion's share of the lucrative Perth market with 40 dealerships in the city, including several at the top end of the market. While AHG is based in Perth it has been expanding aggressively into the eastern states, Victoria in particular, where AP Eagers does not have a strong presence.
The AP Eagers purchase of AHG enhanced its national presence in the industry. AHG is a very high performing company. Group half-year total revenue grew 6.8% to $2.32 billion. Net profit was $38.3 million, up 1.1%. Its automotive segment revenue increased 8% to $1.92 billion and profit was up 20%. The company also operates logistics services for storage and transport.
Nick Politis position as an individual shareholder is clear. He owns almost a third of AP Eagers, which in turn owns almost 20% of Automotive Holdings Group – the two largest automotive dealers on the ASX. Nick seems to be sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat of the Australian automotive industry.
According to Business Review Weekly magazine, Nick Politis wealth as of 2010 was estimated at $182 million. However, by 2013, it was estimated at more than $200 million, with business turn-over of $4 billion annually. The following year in 2014, BRW released its annual Rich 200 list which listed Politis' wealth at $410 million. He was 171st on this list, and amongst the five wealthiest Greek-Australians in Australia. The other four are Con Makris a shopping centre magnate from South Australia. Kerry Harmanis, a nickel miner whose Jubilee Mines was acquired by resources giant Xstrata in 2007 for $3.1 billion. Harry Stamoulis and family originally owners of the Gold Medal Soft Drink company, and later property developers. Theo Karedis, originally a Neutral Bay delicatessen, who later built up the Theo’s Liquor emporium, which he sold to Coles Myer in 2002. Theo still maintains an interest in Hotels, and has invested heavily in property. And, George Koukis originally from Chalkis, near Athens who is the founder of banking software company Temenos. Temenos is a global leader in the development of banking software.
Many of Nick Politis’ achievements have been clearly laid out above. How do you sum up and commend his achievements? Aside from the economic success Nick has led a busy, interesting, exciting, significant, beneficent, fully engaged life. Who could ask for more than that?
Like the other five Australia Award recipients of 2014, he is a positive and significant role model for Kytherian-Australians, Greek-Australians, Greeks and Australians around the world.
Congratulations Nick on an honour richly deserved.
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