Lang Walker – Empire Builder

31/01/2012 12:29 pm

One of the country’s [Australia’s] more colourful property players .” Carolyn Cummins (SMH)

Listed by Forbes as Australia’s 19th Richest Person, with an estimated wealth of $880 million Lang Walker is one Australia’s biggest property developers.

In the late 1960’s A & L Walker Pty Limited was established in NSW by Lang Walker and his father, Alex, as a plant hire and earth moving contractor. In 1972 Lang Walker established The Walker Group, a company that specialised in the construction of new roads and subdivision development.

In 1977, the Walker Group began completing residential development activities. By the 1990s, the Walker Group was heavily engaged in developing retail and residential property and the business was expanding rapidly.

When the company floated in 1994, Lang Walker remained as the Managing Director. Projects under the control of Walker Corporation Limited over that time went on to generate sales revenue of over $2 billion, employing over 375 full time staff. Projects included:

  • University housing projects in Sydney and Melbourne
  • Major residential developments: The Regency, Chatswood and Balmain Cove in Sydney
  • The refurbishment and revitalisation of the The Wharf at Wolloomoollo
  • Re-development of King Street Wharf - Wharves 9 & 10 in Sydney
  • Construction of a shopping centre in Gladesville
  • The redevelopment and re-opening of the Broadway Shopping Centre in March 1998
  • The construction of the Parkwest Industrial Estate in Melbourne
  • Three distribution centres constructed for Coles Myer

At the end of the 90’s, Walker decided to sell his remaining shareholding in Walker Corporation Limited to Australand and concentrate on running his private development company McRoss Developments Pty Ltd. He reserved the rights to re-use the Walker Corporation name after January 2003. McRoss Developments projects included:

  • St Mary’s, Sydney, an industrial site for ACI and Smorgon
  • Georges, Melbourne - refurbishment of the former department store to office and retail space
  • Aspen, Colorado - a housing estate valued at U$40 million
  • Industrial development at Alexandria, Sydney
  • Industrial development at Zetland, Sydney
  • Industrial development at Clayton, Victoria
  • The development of Smithfield for Toll Transport
  • 100% Ownership and management of the Broadway Shopping Centre
  • 120 Elizabeth Street, retail and residential development
  • Pran Central, Melbourne
  • Commercial development, Mona Vale
  • Commercial development, Gosford

In 2003 Land Walker exercised his right to re-use the name Walker Corporation as his company’s name, and McRoss Developments Pty Ltd was re-badged as Walker Corporation Pty Ltd. Walker Corporation has more than $2 billion worth of projects to deliver on Australia’s eastern seaboard over the next 5-7 years. In 2006 Walker as Executive Chairman, announced that the group would continue to develop its range of more than 20 projects across residential, retail, commercial and industrial sectors following the sale of $1.25 billion in selected assets to Mirvac and other parties.

Cashed up and unscathed from the GFC and economic slowdown, Walker has continued his strategy of targeting commercial and residential opportunities in capital city growth corridors. Walker is one of a number of developers who nominated sites to be included in the NSW State Governments land review for housing development (reported earlier by Blockbrief). With Sydney’s housing construction at 50-year lows, Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has called on developers and landowners to “identify sites in appropriate locations that would increase dwelling production in the short term at no additional cost to government.” Walker is a major landholder in Sydney’s south-west and he is particularly concerned about Sydney’s housing shortage and can see no immediate improvement.

Walker has had a tremendous career and is now building his third real estate empire. However, he hasn’t been without his setbacks. Once Walker Corp (1) was listed, it was plagued by controversy, particularly over director salaries, and after a former business partner launched action, accusing Walker of using partnership money for political donations to benefit his own company. In March 2000, Justice Einstein ruled in favour of the plaintiff. Walker also fought a long drawn out battle with the former Labor State Government over Ballast Point, the controversial former Caltex site at Balmain.

Lang Walker’s philosophy to development illustrates why he has been so successful in property development:

“To me, it’s all about possibilities. To take a space and use it to create something valuable, useful and superbly designed. The challenge of transforming a vision into reality is what drives me."