The return salvo from the owner of the kinkiest afro in town.
Yesterday, I wrote a little piece built around an investigation in the Australian Financial Review about Nev Hyman’s plan to sell cheap flat-packed houses to Third World countries, Vanuatu, the Philippines, Indonesia and so on, at an enormous profit.
“The pitch seemed irresistible,” wrote the AFR’s Carrie LaFrenz. “Save humanity and the planet, and make a fortune in one fell swoop… But after eight years and $8 million in multiple fund raisings, the promise of the sale of tens of thousands of homes by Nev House’s founder has evaporated. Now, a group of angry shareholders is demanding answers after raising serious questions about how the company is operated.”
The story sure did give it to ol Nev, so when it appeared on BeachGrit, he hit me with a text, “Thanks Derek (sad face emoji). How about you just give me a call like a friend would do?”
Been a while since I’d called the ol’ ginger so when he picks up, the first item of business is the enduring redness of his kinky afro.
“Gingers don’t go grey, mate, virile to the end,” he laughs.
Second matter is the photo of him and his former CEO Tony Morris cosying up to Imelda Marcos, wife of Ferdinand, the long dead former president of the Philippines who bled his country for billions.
The inference, of course, and it was so irresistible that I jumped on it, too, was, and in Nev’s words, “that we were rubbing shoulders with despots. Give me a break! We spent three hours talking to an eighty-five-year-old woman. It doesn’t mean we were sucking up to her to use her evil money from the past to fund Nev House.”
The meeting, he says, happened shortly after another meeting with the Aquino government in Manila. One of his team, connected as anything, asked if, since they were in town, they wanted to meet Imelda Marcos.
Nev said, “Holy shit! Meet Imelda Marcos? That’s awesome!”
Imelda was surrounded by photos of her with Cuban prez Fidel Castro, New York artist Andy Warhol and her lavish living quarters were dressed with gold bars and pantings by Renoir and Picasso.
“She chewed our ears off for three hours about Ferdinand and all the great things he did for the Philippines. It was hilarious. We all agreed that we wouldn’t use any of the images that were taken in that scenario to promote Nev House. We’re not idiots. I’m not an idiot.”
The AFR story is pretty damning, I tell Nev, who deflects the blame to a couple of disgruntled former employees.
“They’ve got a vendetta against me and by selfishly bringing this stupid story to the press, they’ve risked the shareholding of all existing shareholders who’ve been faithful to me and my team for seven years. To use Layne Beachley and Kirk, and Sally (Fitzgibbons), they’re supporters! They’re not happy but they’re supporters. They know this is a journey. There are one hundred and seventy other shareholders who want to see this through. These selfish bastards have risked everything by accusing me of being either fraudulent, dishonest or, and, inept. Anyone who knows me, and I say this boldly, knows that’s not true.”
Nev says that what hurts the most that is he used to be able to say, “Google me and you won’t find anything negative.”
“And up until Saturday morning, that was a fact,” he says. “Now I’ve got people thinking I’m a poor choice of character and that I’m risking shareholder capital for my own benefit. (The story) implied that I lived the life of Riley in Bali. Oh my god! I was flying back and forth, not to surf, our head office was there. I stayed in rooms in people’s houses. As for flying business class, I did, once. Six years ago. Using my points. In the article it implies that I was flying back and forth in business. Bullshit.”
The AFR story wraps up with a quote from Gary Flowers, the former Mirvac chief operating officer and Australian Rugby Union chief executive, who writes in an email in 2017, to persons unidentified, “As night follows day there is nothing more certain than the fact that this is headed for the ‘dust bin’ of failed corporate ventures.”
Says Nev, “(Flowers) confirmed to me yesterday that he would not say that now.”
Nev says his case is a lesson for everyone in business, but adds,
“I don’t what the lesson is yet. Maybe that I trusted people and I gave people the benefit of the doubt. It’s backfired badly.”
“The people I’ve got now, they’re brothers. I’m so proud of the team we have. Watch this space. There’ll be an announcement in two weeks with what we’ve achieved. I’m not going anywhere. This is not a crush-and-burn story. There’s no one chasing me down the road with a microphone asking where the money has gone. Every cent is accounted for.”