Queensland’s Top 150 Rich List: Former Olympic swimmer Mark Stockwell has a winning approach
FORMER swimming champ Mark Stockwell says his medal-winning sports career was ideal training for success in business.
“At a very young age I got to test myself and was given an opportunity to see whether I could be the best in the world,’’ reflected Mr Stockwell, who as a 21-year-old competed in the 1984 Olympics as part of Australian swimming’s “Mean Machine’’.
He claimed two silvers and a bronze at the Los Angeles Games – where he also met his wife, US swim team captain and triple-gold medallist Tracy Caulkins – and followed up with gold and silver at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh two years later.
“You come to understand that, ultimately, the outcome is a manifestation of training, and of the months and the years of preparation and the patience.
“That’s a big thing – to know that success isn’t given to you on any one day ... success is the result of getting all the little things right.’’
It is an attitude the 51-year-old has brought to his managing director’s role with family-owned property development, investment and management firm Stockwell. “I say to everyone: The world belongs to those who can think big and pay attention to the detail.’’
Mr Stockwell and his family are among 14 new entries in this year’s Rich List, debuting at No.120 with a combined estimated net wealth of $101 million.
He and brother-in-law Mike Kelso, 60, have been joint owners of the business since the early 1990s. It was established more than 60 years ago as a construction firm by Mr Stockwell’s parents, former steelworks carpenter Bill and Necia.
He says his father, who died last year, was ‘’a great mentor’’ who taught him to identify emerging trends early.
Mr Stockwell pioneered riverfront residential apartments in Brisbane’s West End more than a decade ago, when the area was “all old industrial sheds’’.
The inner-city suburb remains key to the company’s plans for the next three years with five residential projects, worth a total $350 million, at various stages. They include the Riverpoint on Ferry and Habitat apartment developments.
In July, he picked up West End’s last remaining flood-free development site on the West End riverfront – the former ABC studios in Ferry Rd.
“People might sit there and say ‘aren’t you a bit overexposed to residential in West End?’ I say thank God!’’ he said.
The developments are being funded by the sale of two shopping centres at Noosa and Sarina. The company still owns four others around the state.
Mr Stockwell says the flexibility to move between residential, commercial, retail and industrial property to “recycle capital’’ has been critical to their success.
So too have “counter-cyclic cash-flow businesses’’ such as leisure management joint ventures which included running the Dreamworld theme park for years, and involvement in health care in Mrs Stockwell’s home state of Tennessee.
“You can’t have all your eggs in one basket,” Mr Stockwell said.
“Our philosophy is do a project and de-risk it ... every project has to stand on its own two feet and no project can take the whole organisation down.’’
Mr Stockwell has also stuck to another key piece of fatherly advice: “Whatever you do, don’t go public.’’
The different culture of heading a publicly-listed company holds no appeal.
“I look at that space and go eeergh ... sitting there talking to some 28-year-old analyst about how he thinks you should run the business.’’
Mr Stockwell, who still follows a rigorous exercise regime, chaired the successful campaign to bring the Commonwealth Games to the Gold Coast in 2018 but was sacked as head of the organising committee by the Newman Government.
I was surprised,’’ he said of the decision, adding that he neither sought nor was given any reason. The same Government has since made him chairman of Trade and Investment Queensland.
He was also recently appointed to the Australian Sports Foundation and the Australian Sports Commission.
Despite his achievements in the pool and the business world, Mr Stockwell has his own measure of success: “Who is around your bed when you’re dying. That’s what success is – a life well-lived.’’