Frank Lowy: Retiring was frightening

FRANK_LOWY_WESTFIELD_FOUNDER_CHAIRMANWestfield founder Frank Lowy says retiring from running the empire he started six decades ago with a small shopping centre in Sydney’s outskirts was a “frightening thing”.

The 87-year-old, who founded Westfield in 1960 and last year announced the sale of his global shopping centre business to Unibail-Rodamco for $35 billion, says he was always afraid of handing over responsibility.

But when the day came to sell, Lowy admits he felt a “great relief”.

“All my life from a young man I have worked very hard and I enjoyed it very much and I was really afraid with what I would do when I no longer had the responsibility,” Lowy said at a business conference in Sydney.

“And then the day came and I felt great relief instead of all those fears that I had – they all disappeared.”

The sale of Westfield’s 35 UK and US operations to European shopping centre owner Unibail-Rodamco is one of the largest corporate deals in Australia’s history and marked the end of an era.

While Lowy stepped down as chairman, he remains an active investor, chairing an advisory board for Unibail-Rodamco.

“I did a lot during my lifetime and I think it is time to make a change to my life at a young age of 87,” he said on Thursday.

“It is time to retire for me – if there is such thing.”

Lowy said he has no fear, however, about the future for retail investors despite concerns of the impacts digital shopping has had, and will continue to have on conventional retailers.

The Holocaust survivor-turned property tycoon expects online shopping to find its “rightful place” alongside conventional retailing.

“Buying goods in shops everywhere is a human activity and I think what we will find is that it (online shopping) will find its rightful place along with conventional retailing and they will share the opportunity,” he said.

“It (conventional shopping) has gone through many, many challenges and many innovations and I think it is a wonderful industry to work in.

“I have no fear about the future for retail investors.”

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1 comment

  1. Peter posted on March 9, 2018

    Frank, you are right in my view. The wheel turns and what goes around comes around. However the Scentre view of praying at the altar of the "China Syndrome" will cause you some serious problems down the track. You are losing, no destroying, your main asset in Australia, Westfield Sydney, by a blind seduction of the Global retailers hell bent on paying you ridiculous rents to get the Chinese tourists/commission agents business. You have driven out the core down to earth local retailers by the rents demanded, and gladly accepted by the brand builders, and short term opportunists. One stroke pen in China could stop this in its tracks. One stroke pen by the Aussie Govt disallowing GST rebates at the airport would send it all in a tailspin. I predict this will happen very soon, then some bright spark at the ATO will look at Tax revenue created by these interlopers, and they will find zilch. They pick up the loaf of profits offshore in a tax haven, and we get the meagre crumbs through incoming GST and some local employment taxes (if the local employees are Australian citizens which I doubt) Losing you will take away the long term view for Australian retail prosperity in bricks and mortar retailing. Your current decision makers in Scentre have no idea strategically, but bow to the metrics of real estate returns. Wish I was younger to see this wheel turn. Peter Sheppard CBD retailer since 1961

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