‘High-Rise Harry” Now Climbed to the Sixth in Australia’s Richest. How Does He Do It?

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Harry Triguboff / Getty

Harry Triguboff / Getty

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/By Orna Taub /

Faster, higher, farther – There’s no stopping Harry Triguboff, also known as ‘High-Rise Harry”,who has this year, at the age of 79 climbed from seventh place to sixth in Forbes Australia’s 50 Richest.  Triguboff is the chairman and managing director of Meriton Apartments, the largest Australian residential property developer.  The real-estate mogul , who started off as a simple builder in Sydney, has built over 55,000 apartments, and is worth an estimated $4.6 billion.

Meriton, a residential property development company, has made the best of the sales downturn by buying cheap development sites and increasing their serviced apartments offerings.  10 years ago, Meriton identified an opportunity in the market for luxury, self-contained apartment sized hotel style accommodation.  Starting with just 25 apartments in Bondi Junction, the brand has grown to a staggering 2,673 apartments across 11 locations.  The apartments are situated in central locations and offer all hotel extra’s like heated swimming pools, spa, sauna, fully equipped gymnasiums and entertainment centers.  According to Meriton, the company develops an average of 1,000 apartments a year.  Last year, it bought six properties for $200 million, hoping to generate $1.5 billion in apartments over the next few years.  Triguboff has built mostly in Sydney’s central business district and on the Gold Coast and Brisbane in Queensland.

Becoming a real-estate mogul was not an easy path for Triguboff.  Born in Dalian (then Darien) China, in 1933, to Russian Jews who fled to northeastern China at the onset of the Communist Revolution, he was raised in the White Russian Jewish community of Tianjin (then Tiensin).  He arrived in Australia in 1947 to study and in 1960 decided to settle down there and become a citizen.  He began his way with a degree in textiles, a profession he worked at in Israel and South Africa.  He drove a taxi, owned a milk route, sold real-estate and even worked as a T.A. for a university lecturer, but couldn’t find himself.  It was only after he was forced to fire the contractor in charge of building his house and finished the job by himself, that he finally found his calling.  In 1963 Triguboff bought some land at Tempe in Smith Street, where he built eight units together with a partner.  In 1968, he built another eight units, this time in a street called Meriton, which also provided the name of the company he established in 1968, and which has since grown to become Australia’s largest apartment builder.

But not everything is rosy in Triguboff’s empire.  In 2004, Meriton completed the World Tower, in his own words “the jewel in the Meriton crown”, Sydney’s tallest residential apartment building and has since been embroiled in a never ending legal battle with the owner’s corporation of the building over serious building defects and maintenance issues.  The lower floors house offices and shops and the upper floors Meriton serviced apartments.  The owner’s corporation also accuse Meriton of dangerous overcrowding, claiming that many apartments are sub-divided and filled with overseas students.  An independent review they commissioned identified a series of maintenance problems, including faulty fire safety systems, flooding, malfunctioning lifts and over $1 million in serious defects in the building’s construction.  Meriton has denied all the allegations and has initiated its own suit, accusing the corporation of duplicating costs and suing it for barring access to the building.

  • A generous philanthropist, Triguboff donates heavily to political parties and uses his influence to seek policy changes.  He has received two honourary doctorates, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2008 and from Griffith University of Queensland, 2012.  In 1990 he was made a member of the Order of Australia. And in 1999 he became an officer of the Order.  He was also the first to receive the Australian Property of the year award twice, in 2003 and again in 2009.

Triguboff has been married twice and has two daughters from his first marriage. He lives in Sydney with his second wife, Rhonda.

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