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Splitting Len Buckeridge’s billions a family affair

It’s easy to know you’re driving past part of Len Buckeridge’s $3 billion legacy when you head along Roe Highway in Canning Vale, Kalamunda Road in South Guildford or along Bushmead Road in Hazelmere.

Sprawling building materials and trucking operations became an integral part of the BGC empire that Len Buckeridge nurtured until his death in 2014.

But you might not know you’re heading past an equally important part of his legacy when you drive past some pretty ordinary looking blocks of flats in Maylands, Glendalough, Applecross, Swanbourne and Claremont.

Then there is the BGC headquarters in Mount Street, Perth, which provides a bit of CBD shine to a valuable and distinct property legacy left by Mr Buckeridge for his many heirs.

It will now be up to his sons Sam and Andrew to work out just how they are going to sort out how a variety of successful BGC businesses, factories, warehouses and transport hubs are carved-up, bundled and sold.

And they will need to work out whether the family is going to keep a property portfolio worth hundreds of millions of dollars that could provide rental incomes for generations to come.

These holdings of flats, buildings and potential development land will leave his family pretty comfortable.
Camera IconThese holdings of flats, buildings and potential development land will leave his family pretty comfortable.Picture: Danella Bevis

Sam Buckeridge this week unveiled plans to put the complex BGC business empire on the market in a bid to satisfy the rights and aspirations of the 15 people named in Len Buckeridge’s will.

Hoping to avoid the fights that have tarnished group legacies such as Lang Hancock’s, Sam vowed to engage in a considered, informed and methodical process.

Heavy smoker Len had been unwell for many years and he had set up his business empire for both failure and his eventual death.

One lawyer who analysed his affairs for a bank in the mid-1990s told WestBusiness there were extensive land holdings unencumbered to the BGC business, which was subject to myriad competitive and economic pressures.

These holdings of flats, buildings and potential development land would have left Len’s five natural children, partner Tootsie, stepson Julian Ambrose and grandchildren extremely comfortable even if BGC were torn asunder.

Most of those independent holdings are now under the structure of the family company Esther Investment Proprietary, which is held in trust by Sam and Andrew separately to the main operating company BGC (Australia) Pty Ltd.

Esther is also the ultimate holding company for Buckeridge family home building flagship J-Corp, which Len owned with builder Julian Walter until an acrimonious split. Statesmen Homes and Commodore Homes sit under BGC (Australia).

The building materials businesses owned by BGC could be extremely attractive to private equity players or even in a trade sale. The contracting arm could easily be sold separately.

If the Buckeridges were to follow the model of Kerry Stokes in his dealings with his South Guildford-based Westrac empire, they could well sell the building materials businesses and retain landholdings on long-term lease deals.

This could include leasehold rights over land on Perth Airport on which the BGC’s flagship Brikmakers plant is built.

Land leased to viable proven businesses is a lot easier to carve up among family members, or even spin off to syndicates of investors chasing long-term income streams.

Getting all this sorted out may well give crucial breathing space to manage the home building companies through an ongoing slump.

More importantly, clear plans will make it easier for Sam and Andrew to justify any delays in vesting the BGC (Australia) and Esther shares to family members by the due date of June 30, 2019.

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