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Paul R. Hanna

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…
...if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”    
Theodore Roosevelt

About Paul

Paul Hanna was born an entrepreneur.

He didn’t just wake up one morning and decide it would be a good idea to lease the Achille Lauro to accommodate officials and spectators for Fremantle’s historic America’s Cup challenge.

And no one takes on the cricket world to design, patent and develop Indoor Cricket into an international game without the innate characteristics which define the entrepreneur: glass-full confidence, steely determination and the ability to confront risk and failure by staring both into submission.

As far as he can remember Paul has always done business with somebody. At the age of 9 he had established a garden round -  weeding, clearing and sweeping his neighbour’s properties. During his primary school years he caddied for all-comers at the Mt Lawley Golf Club, saving the proceeds for the show bags and rides at the annual Royal Show.

First and Only Job

So when the bright and energetic Paul matriculated from CBC Highgate he declined the opportunity of a university education and applied for a job with insurance giant Zurich…the perfect grounding for a teenager with a mind open for what makes business tick: finance, risk, contracts.

And within two years a door opened. In December 1974 Darwin was flattened by Cyclone Tracy causing $837million in damage (approximately $4.45 billion in 2016 dollars). Tracy destroyed more than 70% of Darwin’s buildings including 80% of its houses. Zurich needed a man on the spot. Paul, now feeling desk-bound, applied for the position. His quick mind and ability to dissect the essence of contracts had been noted. At the tender age of 20 Paul found himself promoted to “Claims Superintendent” for Zurich’s largest disaster claim in Australia’s history and was shipped off to Darwin.

The Emerging Entrepreneur…Real Estate and ICA

Returning to Perth in late 1975 Paul began his life-long passion for real estate, joining Abbey Realtors as a rookie salesman. Two years later the ambitious young man set up his own real estate company Estates 77.

One evening in 1980 Paul and his school friend Mick Jones visited a sport’s centre which offered a new style of cricket…indoor. Seeing the potential to both improve and commercialize the game they set about defining and patenting the rules as we now know them. But for Paul this was not just about cricket, it was the added attraction of the real estate in the form of tenanted warehouses.

Paul acted immediately, persuading a builder he knew to sign two leases in a recently built warehouse. The first Indoor Cricket Arena (ICA) centre opened in Morley in 1980. It was an immediate success.

By judicious use of cash flow and real estate financing Paul built an empire of 10 ICA owned and operated centres throughout the country.

At a chance meeting with a lawyer one evening the conversation turned to franchising. Paul wanted to know more. It so happened that this lawyer had developed the franchise contract which was used by a well known fast-food giant. Paul asked to look at the contract, crossed out the original client, gave it back to the lawyer and asked for printed copies. Armed with this business weapon Paul advertised for suitable parties. Within two years 30 franchises had been sold in every state of Australia.

During this rapidly expanding period, Paul’s keen eye for real estate spotted a large warehouse complex in Subiaco. Paul bought the property on a 99-year lease basis for $600,000. Today Lords is one of Perth’s premier indoor sports centres with 9,500 sq.m of sprung indoor flooring, a 25m pool, gym café and crèche.

Huge cash flows and rapid expansion sometimes collide, and with Australia’s economy in decline Paul felt the need for a partner with  financial heft. However an overture from Kevin Bain of Bains Harding to purchase all of ICA, lock, stock and barrel was an offer Paul felt he couldn’t refuse. In 1983 he sold with a smile. Baines Harding even threw in a brand new Mercedes as an added bonus.

Paul was now cashed up and looking out the window of his newly purchased City Beach home he contemplated his next move. He was 29.

A change to Western Australia’s strata- title laws attracted Paul’s attention. 1950s style blocks of flats were each sitting on one title all over Perth. The new laws enabled each unit in the block to be sold separately as a stand-alone real estate with its own title. Paul drove around Perth, did the sums and bought four blocks which when strata-titled would yield 240 apartments. At the same time he developed townhouses in South Perth and Leederville anticipating the demand for inner-city living.

The beautiful and iconic 59 hectare Araluen Botanical Gardens situated along a well-watered cool valley in Roleystone sang its siren and with investors Paul made an offer to the YAL which was accepted. The tourist magnet, along with the quaint timber Chalet Healey Tea Rooms, had become somewhat neglected but with the injection of fresh funds the majestic property returned to her former glory.

The America’s Cup

In 1983 Alan Bond had wrestled the America’s cup from the iron grip of the New York Yacht Club. Bond could now take on all-comers on his home turf in Fremantle. However Fremantle was a fading and dowdy town of 24,000, unchanged for over 100 years, with little in the way of infrastructure and no world class hotels. Paul saw an opportunity.

Paul took a decisive and bold step. He chartered the international cruise liner the Achille Lauro with capacity for 1,400 passenger/spectators and commissioned the building and launching of a 33 metre catamaran the Motive Explorer with capacity for a further 500 guests including the race officials…this at a time when Perth/Fremantle had no history of luxury cruising and no history of large vessel construction.

Unfortunately for everybody involved with the Fremantle America’s Cup races, the white-hot pre-game excitement fizzled into an economic damp squib. Alan Bond seemed to lose interest, no doubt due to his creeping financial woes, and another defender –  financed by Perth’s carpet king, Kevin Parry – fronted up to the experienced American challenger Dennis Conner. Parry’s boat Kookaburra III was soundly beaten 4 to 0 by Conner’s Stars and Stripes 87. In a series of seven races the competition was virtually over before it began. It raised no passion and no profits for all those with skin in the game. Paul lost heaps.

Yet Paul was born with the entrepreneurial spirit…born to ‘meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.’

Paul the Karaoke Pioneer

Always on the lookout for new trends Paul met an employee of Pioneer Electronics in Melbourne, who in casual conversation, let slip that Pioneer had all this unwanted, surplus electronic equipment. A light went off in Paul’s head. He’d vaguely heard about karaoke, did some research and thought, this I can market.

Paul did a deal with Pioneer and became responsible for the rapid growth of karaoke in Australia by marketing, selling, distributing, hiring and servicing Pioneer’s formerly unwanted equipment.