When he’s not counting his Melbourne Cup millions, pimping up out of home or knocking back a cold one in one of his many bars, Melburnian petrol-head and director of Drive By Developments/Media, property and hospitality magnate Ozzie Kheir can be found going full-throttle in one of his fleet of fancy boats or cars. Just don’t ask him to stand up and speak in front of a crowd.
B&T rescued him from his life of drudgery for five minutes to find out what else makes him tick…
What is it about outdoor media that excites you?
It’s definitely a dynamic and interesting industry, and I love the uncertainty and room for growth that comes with it. The industry is going through a dynamic change with the rise of digital technology.
Are you planning on buying any more media companies?
We’ve already got some solid growth pegged for the existing businesses. I’m in discussions to acquire another outdoor operator and I’m committed to becoming a serious competitor in an industry dominated by a few of the larger players.
What do you think is the most exciting thing about outdoor advertising at the moment?
Definitely the digital technology of large format billboards and bus shelter advertising. Soon these will become 3D and interactive too. I’m currently working on hologram technology, which is exciting, and I think will be the new big thing in the next five to seven years.
What are its main threats and opportunities?
I think the only threat is over supply, but that will be a while off yet as outdoor advertising is one of the leading growth industries in advertising. If you compare us to other countries we are miles behind in regards to developments.
What do you wish you’d invented or patented?
I wish half the ideas I thought I’d come up with first, hadn’t been thought of before. I guess we all have similar stories. We get excited when an idea springs to mind and then after a bit of searching find out someone else has had the same idea.
Describe your average day?
There’s no such thing as an average day in my life. I have no idea what I’ll be doing one day to the next, but whatever it is I know it will be interesting and often something to learn from.
You doubled Absee’s profits in the first year – how did you turn it around and what advice would you give to other outdoor companies?
I’d attribute 70 per cent to partnering up with the right people who have the same motivation to perform. The other 30 per cent was a result of restructuring the business and having a fantastic team behind you who share a common goal. It is incredibly rewarding turning businesses around quickly. My advice is to work with the best people and ask as many questions as you can to those who have been in the game longer than you have.
You co-founded the Iconic Hotels Group, own nightclubs, head up a magnificent property portfolio, have a Melbourne Cup winner and also own outdoor media companies – what’s next?
I’m always on the lookout for interesting and new business opportunities, and at the same time I’m increasingly getting seeked out for other new ventures. There’s a lot of interesting new things happening in the technology space at the moment, and how it impacts and provides opportunities for retail is pretty amazing: a bit like what you’d imagine is a hundred years away is just around the corner.
You’ve got a dinner with Malcolm Turnbull tomorrow night. What would you talk to him about?
I’d never give up an opportunity to talk cars and I’m sure Mr Turnbull would like the opportunity to not talk politics and business for a change.
What’s your best investment?
The best performing investment I’ve had was some farmland I purchased, situated on the outer suburbs of Melbourne. It has since been rezoned into residential land and resulted in good profits for me. It took four years to happen and was definitely a calculated punt. Some would say I was lucky. I am a believer that you make your own luck with the decisions you make.
What was the silliest?
My sports cars and boats – everyone knows they devalue as soon as you leave the showroom, but that won’t change my passion for luxury items. I guess I see it as my reward, not an investment. Although the amount of times I use them it would be cheaper to hire them.
If you were to market yourself, what do you think are your unique selling points?
I would say the fact I’m a problem solver with a no stress attitude.
What would your logo and/or slogan be?
If I’m not stressed, then you don’t need to stress.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Probably the best advice I have been given is to let my assets work for me. I purchased my first investment property when I was in my early 20s. It was a three-bedroom house right near my parents’ home in Pascoe Vale and I had to borrow the deposit, which was an incredibly scary proposition for young 20-year-old.
What’s your proudest professional moment?
Last year’s Melbourne Cup win with Protectionist.
And your most cringe-worthy?
A public speaking event 15 years ago where I froze for about five minutes. It felt like an hour.
What would your rather bee or a wasp?
Neither, they both annoy me.
Tea or coffee?
Cats or dogs?
Dogs. They have way more personality and loyalty at their core.
Adelphi Hotel is the world’s first dessert hotel and we have a fantastic dessert bar in the restaurant. Anything from there late at night is worth the kilojoules.
What’s your favourite TV programme?
Who’s your favourite celeb?
I don’t really watch much TV or read glossy magazines. I guess if a celeb is interesting and good to talk too, they’d become my favourite.
What’s your quirkiest attribute?
I’m sure that’s a question better answered by my wife.
One thing no one knows about you?
I love a power nap during the day.
Your house is on fire and the arsonists have nicked your car. What would you save?