In Business & Trade by Clyde Mooney

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Back from the very public sell-down of the bulk of its portfolio, Riversdale is looking to its future and further acquisitions, as the group celebrates a milestone in operations.

Riversdale is group operator for John Singleton, Geoff Dixon and Mark Carnegie’s $300m Australian Pub Fund, which burst into prominence in 2011 with a string of acquisitions based in snaring underperforming pubs in good locations.

Prominent undertakings such as Kinselas in Darlinghurst and Newtown’s Marlborough Hotel saw major uplift under the group’s model, although the original investment vehicle stopped short of accumulating a full quota as the surging industry saw prices grow steadily and ominously.

As valuations on the portfolio flagships reached what many considered market peak, the celebrity backers decided to call time and APF ended 2016 with a bang, selling three pubs at once for $48 million, followed shortly by the Toxteth, Marlborough, Kinselas and Vic on the Park.

Riversdale frontmen Andrew Gibbs and Jay Beecroft remained coy on the future of the remaining three venues in the stable, until speculation on a complete sell-down was quashed by the first new purchase in several years, beyond Sydney, with Newcastle’s Lambton Park Hotel.

A group that has executed a windfall from market forces, largely through the application of considered capital and operational nous, Riversdale has employed the use of AusComply for a lot of operational policy-making around both compliance and patron behaviour across its pubs.

AusComply helps venues proactively log all compliance and RSA-related events, building a profile of the venue’s approach and culture. The company recently clocked up one million ‘events’ logged at user venues, which happened to occur at a Riversdale pub.

The majority of the ‘events’ are positive measures a venue has done, such as walk-throughs and RSA decisions, but each one builds on a library of information and history of both the pub and industry as a whole.

Speaking to PubTIC at the Australasian Gaming Expo, where the group was presented with a commemorative acknowledgement of the milestone, Beecroft says best-practice is an important part of their approach.

“We’ve got some big investors and we’ve got to look after those investors, and compliance is a big part in a lot of facets of this industry these days. I find with AusComply the more you put into it the more you get out of it.”

Having parted with much of the family, Beecroft says they are pumped to get stuck into the LPH, with plans to reactivate the upper level and make greater use of the large deck area.

“We’re really excited about Lambton. As we all know, Newcastle is booming. We saw an opportunity, we took it, and we’re hoping for more opportunities in that area.”

Riversdale CEO Gibbs was characteristically cagey on the future of APF’s Unity Hall in Balmain, and the big Brisbane pubs The Elephant and Stock Exchange, but the former head of Solotel was buoyant on the prospects for the group and industry as a whole.

“I’ll repeat Geoff Dixon’s comment from a couple of years’ ago – everything’s for sale at the right price,” he smiled.

“I just think the industry is in great shape at the moment. There are some great operators doing really terrific things; some of the renovations you’re seeing – go back just five years and you wouldn’t see the quality of finish. And that’s thanks, in part, to where we are today, at the Gaming Expo.

“It’s great to see publicans reinvesting in their businesses and making them better. The industry is flying … it’s just fun to be a part of.”

L-R: Riversdale’s Andrew Gibbs and Jay Beecroft, AusComply’s Jason Thomas and Clive Dillen