Billionaire tycoon slams Qld council’s ‘assault on jobs’
ONE of Australia's richest developers has accused a southeast Queensland council of undermining his business and engaging in an attack against hundreds of jobs.
Leda Holdings chairman Bob Ell, who operates Riverlink Shopping Centre in Ipswich, has lashed out at the city's council for using ratepayer funding to prop-up retail in its central business district.
Mr Ell, 74, claims Ipswich City Council's $43.6 million refurbishment of CBD buildings to lure retail tenants will put his shopping centre's viability at risk.
Riverlink is Ipswich's largest retail hub, with about 150 tenants and 9.1m customer visitors each year.
Ipswich City Council on the other hand has been on a two-year journey to breathe new life into its dilapidated CBD by refurbishing buildings to lure back retailers and restaurants.
Mr Ell, the usually reserved property tycoon worth $1.4b according to Forbes, said the council was undermining the city's retail market by offering cheap rent.
"They want to come down and try to be developers again," Mr Ell said.
"They want to build shops and eight theatres in competition to our theatres across the creek.
"This is ridiculous after we've been the largest investor in the town."
Mr Ell said retail in the CBD "could send 20 or 30 of our tenancies broke."
"You could put 150 people out of work," he said.
When it was built in 2007 Riverlink "saved Ipswich", Mr Ell said.
"We made the biggest investment and were the biggest employer in Ipswich," he said.
Ipswich City Council will spend $43.6 million refurbishing several CBD sites to facilitate the construction of an indoor go-kart track, new eatieres and an expansion to an old cinema complex.
In May - after 50 years in Ipswich - Birch Carroll and Coyle vacated the six-cinema complex in the heart of the city, declaring it was too tough a retail environment to continue.
The council will now refurbish the building and build two extra cinemas.
Mr Ell claims the expansion is not viable and says it will unfairly compete with his Limelight cinemas at Riverlink.
"Protect the jobs and the investment in the industry you've got," he said.
"Don't kill the golden goose you've got and kill the people who kept $350m in Ipswich.
"It's about time local government woke up to itself.
"Tell the council to pull their heads in."
Ipswich administrator Greg Chemello said the council would refurbish the CBD buildings and on-sell them.
"The approximate expected sale price is about $50 million for these, all going well," he said.
"Yes there are risks, significant risks, but the bigger risk for the community is not doing anything, given where we are at this point and time.
Mr Chemello said the questionable purchase of the CBD - signed off by the Paul Pisasale-led administration - left the council "no choice" but to funnel cash into upgrading it.
"Council acquired for reasons the CBD over a decade ago, we inherited that situation," Mr Chemello said.
"We have engaged a significant number of experts in the field to advise council on what to do."
This March a report into Ipswich City Properties, the company responsible for managing and developing the CBD, found it made a net loss of $78.74 million before it was shut down in 2018.