When someone moves to another country to live, it is generally for opportunity. It might be that their homeland was unsafe or oppressive, or it might be that the business or lifestyle opportunities were greater overseas – but in any respect, it is a big decision that requires dedication and commitment.
Whether it be arriving with little more than the clothes on your back, or with a detailed plan and a few connections, it takes a strong work ethic to establish a solid life in a new country. In some cases, that work ethic takes an individual to unimaginable success.
Here are some of Australia’s current migrant success stories.
It is rare for Triguboff, billionaire apartment developer and tough guy of the Australian property industry, to show his emotions. He says candidly that it is a result of his childhood when, at age 14, his parents sent him and his 21-year-old brother from China to Sydney to start a new life.
“When I left I didn’t know if I would see my mother and father again because we were living in China. China was a pretty volatile sort of place. And I thought I should cry. But I couldn’t cry,” he recalls of that time.
“I thought it [crying] was the right thing to do, but I was so excited at going to Australia, seeing something different.”
While Triguboff was born in China, the family name clearly demonstrates further heritage. His parents were Russian Jews who fled to north-eastern China after the rise of Lenin.
Triguboff spent his early childhood in the Jewish community in Tianjin, China, before the move to Sydney in 1947, where he finished his education. There was, however, a lot more moving around to come. He graduated with a degree in textiles from the University of Leeds in England and worked with textile businesses in Israel and South Africa.
He returned to Australia in 1960 and became an Australian citizen in 1961 – effectively starting life as a migrant worker again. He took on a series of odd jobs, including running a taxi fleet, owning a milk run in Chatswood, New South Wales, and trying to sell real estate. He even worked as an assistant lecturer at a local university but wasn’t particularly successful.
The most significant moment came when he bought some land in Roseville and hired a builder to construct his house. The builder turned out to be awful, so Triguboff threw him out and finished the job himself, learning from his mistakes.
From this first foray into property, Triguboff bought a second piece of land and built a block of eight units. The next development – an 18 unit block in Gladesville that happened to be on Meriton St – was a major success, and Triguboff registered a new company in its name.
Meriton Apartments Pty Ltd has since built almost 50,000 residential dwellings (mainly townhouses and apartments) since its creation in 1963, making it Australia’s biggest residential property developer. As chairman and managing director, Triguboff is consistently in financial rich lists – and equally well known for his philanthropic work.
Frank Lowy is a staple of the BRW Rich List. As co-founder of the Westfield Group, Lowy was estimated to have a net worth of more than US$5 billion in 2013 and is equally known for his involvement in Australian soccer.
Lowy was born in Czechoslovakia, but moved with his family as a young child to Budapest, Hungary. When Lowy was only 13 – in the midst of World War Two – his father left the family home and never returned. It left the young child scratching around the streets, trying to avoid the Nazis and Hungarian Secret Police. It would take some 50 years to learn that his father had tried to purchase the family train tickets for a new life, but was rounded up at the station and sent to Auschwitz.
At the conclusion of the war, Lowy made his way to France where he left on the ship Yagur, but was caught en route to the British Mandate of Palestine by the British and deported to the detention camp in Cyprus. After a few months, he was allowed into Palestine and was brought to the Atlit detainee camp.
Lowy eventually joined the Haganah and then the Golani Brigade, fighting during the Israeli War of Independence in the Galilee and in Gaza.
In 1952 he left Israel and joined his family, who had left Europe for Australia and started a business delivering small goods. In 1953, he met fellow Hungarian migrant John Saunders (born Jenö Schwarcz) and together they eventually created Westfield. The rest, as they say, is now Australian history.
While spending a considerable amount of time in London now, Michael Hintze was honoured as Australian of the Year in 2008, was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2013 and even served in the Australian Army.
As the chief executive and senior investment officer of CQS, a global multi-strategy asset management firm and the portfolio manager of the CQS Directional Opportunities Fund, Hintze is a major player in the financial world and estimated to be worth more than US$1.5 billion.
Hintze’s early life has some coincidental similarities with Harry Triguboff. His grandparents fled from Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and settled in China. Hintze was born in the Chinese city of Harbin; however when the Chinese Communist Party took over power, his parents claimed refuge in Sydney.
Raised by his secretary mother in Sydney, he was educated at the local Christian Brothers School and went on to graduate from the University of Sydney having studied physics and engineering, residing at St John’s College. After graduating, he joined the Australian Army for three years, before moving to New York to train in financial services. Working for the likes of Salomon Brothers, Credit Suisse First Boston and Goldman Sachs in London, Hintze launched his own hedge fund in 1999.
Kostas (Con) Makris is affectionately known as the richest Greek in Australia with a net fortune of more than US$1 billion. His money has been made in property – much of it in South Australia and a few key investments on the eastern seaboard.
Makris was born in Ligourio of Epidaurus, but quickly moved with his family to Holargos, Greece. His early years were difficult and he began working at only 12 years of age – learning the value of an honest day’s work. He made the big decision to migrate to Australia in 1963 at the age of 16 working first in a white goods warehouse, then started grocery stores and cooked-chicken shops.
Successful investments in real estate led to the founding of the Makris Group which bought its first shopping centre in the 1980s. With nine major shopping complexes and a host of residential and retail assets in Adelaide and the Gold Coast, the company maintains solid profits in a volatile sector.
David and Vicky Teoh
Migrating from Malaysia in 1986, David and Vicky Teoh are the directors of ASX-listed telecommunications company TPG.
Although considered one of the most impressive self-made success stories in the country, very little is actually known about them personally. Both are highly reclusive, rarely give interviews and refuse to have their photos taken by the media.
David Teoh has been dubbed a ‘master acquirer’ after boosting TPG’s capitalisation by buying several competitors. He does it without the help of investment banks, which is impressive both for his ability to spot a good deal and because it makes the process cheaper for shareholders…
Excerpted from an article originally published in the April/May 2014 issue of Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine. If you are a subscriber to Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine, you will receive this article in your April/May 2014 issue of TGR. If you are not a subscriber, click here to subscribe.