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MAB Brothers Rack Up 20 Years of Good Timing

Click here to read the original article by Nicole Lindsay for The Sydney Morning Herald, December 1 2015.

After 20 years together in business, brothers Michael and Andrew Buxton acknowledge that timing has played an enormous part in their good fortune.

They formed MAB – after the initials of their names – in 1995 after Michael cashed out of Max Becton’s development and construction firm and entered a market recovering from recession.

“I was looking for a more leisurely life,” Michael Buxton said.

“We started at a really good time. We were able to get really good bank leverage,” Andrew Buxton said. “Now it’s different. Sometimes, they want you to put more and more equity in, sometimes they want cashflow.

“When we did the first towers at Docklands we were able to borrow nearly all the money – we had other assets – but the leverage was good. Then we had a downturn and didn’t sell anything for a couple of years.”

The pair, the fifth continuous generation of their family to be involved in the property business,  started by redeveloping the old Swallow & Ariell biscuit factory in Port Melbourne into the Anchorage apartments and followed it up with the Red Tulip factory in Prahran. Both  involved retaining but modifying historic buildings.

Their interest shifted to the key brownfields redevelopment of Docklands next, winning the right to develop the New Quay precinct on the north side of the water. They quickly proposed a series of apartment buildings named for Michael Buxton’s favourite artists and found them selling out in days. It signalled a big change for MAB.

“When we started Docklands we became more professionalised. Ever since then we have been getting better and better management teams,” Michael said.

Their current development slate includes the $1.2 billion Merrifield mixed use site and the tail end of the $1.5 billion Docklands project and $1 billion University Hill, just north of the Ring Road. 

But they aren’t likely to be participating in the current residential redevelopment at the Fishermens Bend site where they recently sold a property they had held for 24 years.

 “Fishermen’s Bend is a good place for residential development,”  Andrew Buxton said, “and Mathew Guy did the right thing in rezoning. It’s a site with 40 years development ahead of it.

But he said land prices there are excessive. “The risks are becoming very high. A lot depends on maintaining population growth,” Michael said. “There’s no research into what people want to do. A few years ago baby boomers weren’t going to move into apartments but they are now. Are young families going to move into apartments? That’s what we’re going to find.”

Next year, the brothers are off to Europe to research the latest trends in how people are living. They’ve got some new potentially big projects on the horizon but they’re not likely to be overseas or interstate.

“We’ve always been Melbourne-focused – we’ve spent our lives here,” Michael said. 

“We’ve done a few jobs interstate; we  found that we are better to stay in Melbourne and that’s what we are going to do,”