Read the speech made by the major proprietor of 76 Light Square, TGB managing partner Morry Bailes, at the official opening of the building.
Firstly, I thank our Deputy Premier and Attorney-General John Rau for his kind words and for agreeing to officially open the new 76 Light Square.
I also echo the welcome of Gary Allison to our special guests.
76 Light Square was the home of Tindall Gask Bentley from 1974 until we moved to temporary premises in Pirie Street in October 2008.
It has always been the home of the firm sitting half way between the common Law Courts in Victoria Square and the Industrial Courts now at the Riverside Centre, formerly in Hooker House on the corner of King William Street and Hindley Street.
It is also within striking distance of the Family Court which used to be in Grenfell Street and which is now next to the Court’s precinct on Angas Street.
So it has always been perfectly positioned for us to come and go to the Courts and Tribunals in which we appear to represent our clients.
The story of the new building
For those who don’t know the story of the new 76 Light Square, it goes something like this.
We occupied an old two storey Victorian blue stone building but the firm was bursting at the seams.
We had had a lot of growth and in fact we were leasing a floor of the building to our east.
Something had to happen and as the owner of the old building I spoke with my partners and it was agreed that in exchange for there being no break costs on the then lease, the firm would move out, I would build a new building and the firm would precommit to moving back in again.
The plan sounded disarmingly simple, the Banks were enthusiastic, and we duly came to an agreement in early 2008.
Well talk about timing!
At 1.45 a.m. on the 15th September 2008 Lehman Brothers Holdings Incorporated filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection, the largest bankruptcy in US history!
Whereas yesterday bankers were approaching you with wads of cash and large cigars in their mouths (or should I say had probably purchased the cigars you had in your mouth!), in late 2008, things took on a very different complexion.
Property development more or less ceased over night, but we had made a commitment to the firm and we intended to carry through with it.
I shan’t bore you with the many and frequent discussions that my wife, Melanie and I had across the dinner table at night on the subject of this building!.
Needless to say, it preoccupied much of our thought because predictably in a financial crisis the last people that Banks were talking to were property developers especially would be property developers who had never actually developed property before!
I will come to my “thank you’s” both on behalf of Melanie and the firm in due course but I would like to deal with one first.
I have often heard a “thank you” speech end with the words “and finally I would like to thank my spouse”.
On this occasion I would like to first and foremost thank my wife, Melanie, for making possible in every respect what has been achieved here and for that matter a lot of what I have achieved in my professional life.
I owe her a great deal and it is fitting that I publicly acknowledge it.
Anyway, back to the story.
We had fortuitously instructed as architects Pruszinski Architects.
Now if you know Paul Pruszinski he is a “can do” person in every respect and was not about to see his lovely orange building not go up and so he suggested to us that we may want to have some discussions with the successful building tenderer, Tagara about a joint venture.
Tagara wanted the job – we wanted the building and the Bank by that stage, although prepared to give us most of the build cost, wanted to see a bit more equity in the project.
We commenced some discussions with John Kassara, one of the Tagara Directors who in turn introduced me to Tag, Tagara’s Managing Director, and we put together a joint venture with Tagara holding a minority share in the building and Melanie and I the majority.
I have since developed a strong relationship with Tagara, and those employed by John and Tag.
I cannot speak highly enough of John and Tag, as both as business partners and as builders.
This place was built on budget and on time.
There was not a disagreement throughout the whole period of the build and Melanie and I personally thank John and Tag, our partners in this partnership, for their interest, friendliness and dedication.
On behalf of Tindall Gask Bentley, I thank Tagara for the work that it put into the fit out of the building because Tagara were both base build as well as fit out builder.
I mention in particular David Talbot and Natalie Pribanic and later Shane Manning, who managed the project on site.
As the project neared its commencement a lot of work was done to ensure that the interests of the base build owners would not conflict with those of Tindall Gask Bentley as the tenant, and to ensure the most could be achieved from the integration of the fit out into the base build.
For that we thank Victor Daminato of Crawford Legal.
Not only did Victor, as one legal practitioner to another, grant me a considerable favour in the preparation of the building contract, he also helped the firm find its way through the morass of detail and technical matters that we needed to chew through to put definition around what was to happen during the integrated fit out.
Victor is simply the best construction lawyer South Australia boasts of and I would recommend him to anyone who needs legal advice in that complex and tricky area of the law.
John, I am certain he will accept SA government rates when he is not acting for Hanson Yuncken!
Tindall Gask Bentley was also ably assisted by our interior architects, Carlo Pennino, Diana Rosenthal and Sally Bostock of MPH, and by project managers Richard Little and Tom Dalrymple of Synergy
At this point too I should like to acknowledge on behalf of the firm the work put in by John Waters.
John is the husband of Marcia Waters, a partner of the firm. As a former architect himself, John was of great assistance to us, and we thank him.
Now, I have mentioned Banks a few times here because if there is one thing I have learnt about the art of property development it is that finance is the first thing you have got to worry about, the last thing you have got to worry about and the only thing you have got to worry about.
After we had knocked on a few doors, we came across one Bank that was a stand out.
I have used the term “a can do” person a few times thus far.
Melanie and I were exceedingly fortunate to meet Rob Soda of Commonwealth Bank.
CommBank have been nothing short of brilliant.
Rob made something happen that the others could not.
We have been highly impressed with Rob’s completely professional approach to everything, injecting into things what some bankers seem unable to do, a bit of common sense.
Banks, of course, don’t act alone and whilst valuation may be regarded as the dark art of property development, valuers, are essential to make the figures work.
We had a couple of go’s at this but the project eventually added up, and we thank Cameron Olsson, formerly of CBRE, for his assistance throughout.
Thankyou also to Lukas Weeks of Jones Lang LaSalle who helped de-mystify the world of commercial property for me. I am exceedingly grateful.
Jones Lang LaSalle now manage the building and are our leasing agents and I am pleased to announce tonight that we signed a ground floor tenant during the week, a café, that I hope will make good use of the outdoor area and the aspect of Light Square.
Both Melanie and I and the firm have been advised by Trevor Basso of Basso Newman Accountants.
Trevor isn’t so much an accountant as a friend and advisor.
He accompanied me to discussions with Tagara and advised us throughout.
I also thank Trevor on behalf of Tindall Gask Bentley.
You also can’t go very far these days without the assistance of a financial advisor, and Mel and I thank Rory Mooney of Wealth by Design.
Rory was there with us every step of the way, and diplomatically refrained from openly questioning my sanity in 2008 and 2009.
So to conclude the story, the project here started with the demolition of the old building in July last year, notwithstanding heartfelt entreaties by heritage lover Peter Alexander.
I should clarify for John, who is also the Planning Minister, that there was no heritage lisitng so we’re all above board.
The build itself started in October and it was at that point in time that my partner, Barney Gask entered a small side bet with our senior partner, Gary Allison that if the building was not completed on time (26th May 2012 – I shall never forget that date!) as Barney expected, Gary owed him one bottle of Hentschke Hill of Grace.
I won’t say that Gary was supremely confident throughout, and indeed things were touch and go in the last month, but the end of the story is that Barney now owes Gary a of Hill of Grace!
I have mentioned a number of my partners throughout but I would like to mention them again.
Without Gary Allison, Marcia Waters, Tim White and Barney Gask sharing my vision for having the firm in A grade premises for the first time in its 42 year history, we would not be standing where we are this evening.
On behalf of Mel and myself I thank you for permitting this to happen, because without your agreement, this project was impossible.
Finally, on behalf of my partners I thank Claudio Galloni our General Manager. Claude led a team of managers, Roger Lomman, Susan Treglown, Tony Butler, Amanda Dowdy, Rachel Woodward and Andrew Montesi in bringing about the fitout and then without a hitch getting us back to our old stomping ground of 76 Light Square.
I also reserve a special thank you to my Personal Assistant, Sarah Draper, for, well .. everything.
I will end by telling you a story of how being here has positively affected every member of our firm.
When I joined the firm in 1988 there were only three staff solicitors, one of whom, Marcia Waters, is now my partner.
I guess to avoid any awkwardness, the then partners bought us our lunch.
The number of staff solicitors grew as did the firm.
We now have 50 lawyers and a total staff of 120.
We kept on buying the lawyers’ lunches and we would eat together in the conference room, tell war stories from Court and we loved the fact that we were together for at least one point in the day.
But there was always nagging in the back of our mind the fact that we had drawn a division between the people in the firm, the lawyers, and the non lawyers.
In these premises we purpose built a staff café on level 6 which occupies everyone in the firm at lunch time.
We now buy lunch for every member of the firm every day of the working week and all of us come together at one point during the day.
Everyone in this firm makes it happen and everyone should be rewarded.
Ladies and gentlemen thank you for your attentiveness.
I now ask John Rau to cut the ribbon and announce the building officially open.
If you are interested in seeing the rest of the building, we have a number of people who are taking tours through the building so that you can see our café floor and the office floors.
You may also like to wander around this level and into the various conference rooms, because as we have here, the photographs of our firm member and former partner, Ron Bentley are hung throughout.
Ron’s photography has been bought by the National Gallery, and we are proud to have the art of a South Australian and firm member adorn our walls.
You are likely to drink a Primo Estate wine tonight. Joe Grilli from Primo Estate is here tonight if you wish to talk wine.
Thank you to Clerk Sam Hooper and his mates for helping serve the drinks and food tonight.
Ladies and gentlemen that concludes the formalities. Thank you and enjoy your night.
Author: Morry Bailes