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Opinion

Smith’s Asia travails extend to his house

The considerable wealth of Mike Smith, former ANZ CEO and long-time HSBC globetrotter, is a subject of some contention among Australian investors who feel he earned a ton of cash for eroding shareholder value during his time at the helm of the Australian bank.

But Smith would be A$2 million ($1.5 million) wealthier still had he not fallen foul of Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board when he tried to sell his house.

His house, 2 Hopetoun Road in the wealthy Melbourne suburb of Toorak, sold in February for almost A$13 million – a tidy sum by any standards for a five-bedroom house (who says there’s a bubble in Australian residential property?) But it was believed to be going for A$15 million last year to a Chinese buyer, according to the Australian Financial Review. That buyer than failed to get FIRB approval from the increasingly belligerent Australian watchdog and the sale fell through.

Rest content

At least that sale was stopped before proceeding rather than afterwards: also in February, Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison said that 15 Chinese owners of properties had been forced to sell after completion, for failing to get FIRB approvals. 

As for Smith, he can nevertheless rest content in the knowledge that he still made plenty: the AFR reports that he bought the house for A$9.65 million in 2007. 

There is a mordant symmetry in the man who masterminded ANZ’s expansion from Australia into Asia losing out because of the failure of a buyer from Asia to get in to Australia.

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