Profiled Developers


"The man who saw wilderness and out of  it created an empire" - Richard H Edmonds

Henry Flagler was an American oil tycoon, real estate development and railroad builder. He was a key figure in the development of Florida's east coast, being the founder of what become the Florida East Coast Railway. Flagler was one of John Rockefeller's original partners in the oil business; he became extremely wealthy through the growth of the Standard Oil Company.

He is known as the father of Miami and also founded Palm Beach Florida. Perhaps his greatest project was extending the Florida East Coast railroad to Key West, an extraordinary achievement.



“He is the archetypal businessman – a deal maker without peer and ardent philanthropist” – Robert Kiyosaki

Donald Trump is the chairman and president of the Trump Organisation, a privately held company New York. The Trump Organisation has enjoyed extraordinary success everything from global real estate development and global licensing, sales and marketing, property management, golf course development, entertainment, product licensing to brand development.

Away from his real estate acquisitions, Trump has become a household name synonymous with success, writing best-selling books, producing and starring in the hit television show The Apprentice, and now a potential run for President.

Trump was on Michael Savage’s radio show this week discussing next years US Presidential Election and the possibility of him throwing his hat in the ring as an independent.

I would rather not do it, but if the wrong Republican candidate gets chosen, which is possible…and if the economy continues to be bad, which it probably will. Because I think we have an incompetent leader. I think he doesn’t know what he is doing. Certainly as to the economy and other things. I would certainly consider it…

On his chances of wining, Trump went on to say:

“I really feel this way. People do not love the Republicans. I am a Republican. People do not love the Republicans, to put it mildly and they certainly don’t love the Democrats and I think at this time the right independent could absolutely win.”

Trump Interview Part 1

When asked about his secret to success in real estate investment and property development, Trump summarised by saying:

Number one I pride myself on being able to get location. That’s like an athlete. You know, I mean, a great baseball player they can hit a ball, they can play golf better than other people. I have always had an ability to get a good location, or to see what a good location is and transform it into a good location. I have had that ability and then I have had the ability to go out and get zoning and get it approved and get the building built. Under budget and ahead of schedule and build a better product.”

Donald Trump Interview Part 2



"A bon vivant with a love of life and a flair for creating unique luxury properties" - The Luxury Travel Bible

John Spence went from Bananaramma and Culture Club agent to property developer, voted the 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. His companies Royal Reports and Karma Resort tuned over $85 million last year.

In property Spence started from the street up, hustling on the beach to get people into timeshare tours. Progressing through the ranks, to sales manager, sales director, and marketing director. All the while Spence self-educated himself by taking nigh school courses, to allow him to run the company in the end. After nine years working in property and real estate Spence became the managing director Global.

In 1993 Spence decided he could do property development better and he took a leap of faith and left Global. Spence saw great opportunity in a rising India, John founded Royal Resorts to pioneer vacation ownership India and South East Asia.

“I saw this huge opportunity and an emerging middle class (India). I cashed in my life savings, sold my flat in London and bought a piece of land in Goa.”

Within two years, Royal Resorts had become one of the fastest growing vacation ownership companies in the industry’s history. In 2002, he founded Karma Resorts, bringing the boutique villa resorts concept to Asia. Spence aimed these high-end, boutique villa resorts at investors who purchase a whole villa and then rent it back to an operating company on a condotel-type model. The idea took off with explosive success.

Spence struck gold again setting up sales offices in Dubai, Oman and Abu Dhabi, identifying that Indian nationals who live in those places dream of owning land in India. Four year later Spence was struggling to keep up with demand opening up 70 offices around the globe.

Now Spence sees tremendous opportunity in Europe despite the current economic client.  With cheap assets now available, Spence is buying up to capitalise on the reverse trends in tourism.

“Now it’s Chinese and Indian people going over to Europe for a cheap holiday – totally opposite to what it was 20 years ago.”

The Karama Royal Group is a $55 million business, with 16% EBIT. With Royal and Karma brands, Spence has 17 resorts in operation around the world and 10 more in the pipeline. In the near future, he aims for explosive growth and even a float on a major stock exchange.



"A real estate developer whose companies – bearing the family name since the 19th century – etched their mark on the skylines of cities around the nation, including construction of the World Trade Center.” Dennis Hevesi (NYT)



Robert Tishman was born in Manhattan in 1916. His father David had taken over leadership of Tishman Realty and Construction from his father. Robert Tishman graduated from Cornell in1937, and also attended Columbia Law School. He then served in the Navy during World War II, and returned to the family business at the end of the war.

At the helm of Tishman Realty and Construction during the 60’s and 70’s, Robert Tishman grew the company into one of the largest owners and developers of office buildings in the US. During this time Tishman negotiated the contracts with the Port Authority of New and New Jersey for the World Trade Centre, also overseeing its construction (Tishman Construction is currently servicing as project manager for One World Trade Center).

Tishman Realty and Construction developed the 39-story Tishman Building at 666 Fifth Avenue and other residential building on Park Avenue, the company also managed the construction of Madison Square Garden.

Under Tishman, the company expanded throughout the US and developments included:

  • 100 story John Hancock Tower in Chicago
  • Alcoa’s twin-tower Century City Complex in Los Angeles
  • Renaissance Center in Detroit
  • Condominiums on Nob Hill in San Francisco

Tishman truly was the ultimate development. He described his the company in 1968 to Business Week as, “an intercompany conglomerate”.

We locate land, design the building, select the architect, work our interim and permanent financing, do the leasing, build and manage the building .”

At the time no other developer or builder held these diverse levels of capabilities. Tishman Realty and Construction was put of for IPO in 1928 and was eventually liquidated 5 decades later.

A year after Tishman Realty and Construction was liquidated. Tishman and his son-in-law started Tishman Speyer Properties, which was to become one of the largest real estate companies in the world. While president the company developed:

  • The Equitable Center in New York
  • The NBC Tower in Chicago
  • The Sony Center in Berlin
  • The MesseTurm in Frankfurt
  • The Torre Norte in São Paulo

Tishman Speyer has built 325 projects totaling 10 million metres, and currently the companies portfolio is valued in the region of $50 billion. From 1972 to 1975, Tishman held the distinguished position of chairman of the Real Estate Board of the New York. He was also Chairman, and then Honorary Chairman, of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, Associate Chairman and Charter Trustee of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, Trustee of the Citizens Budget Commission, a member of the Real Estate Advisory Committee of Cornell University, a member of the Board of Directors of Boys and Girls Harbor, Director of the Citizen's Housing and Planning Council, and was an Honorary Director of the Grand Street Settlement.

Before there was Trump, Tishman was the master of the deal, an expert in successful contract negotiation he believed to be successful, one must:

"Always leave something on the table for the other guy."



"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 contraction 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.."