After months of rumours and speculation, it has been officially confirmed that a local Mosman family has purchased The Oaks Hotel, an iconic watering hole on Sydney’s lower north shore. The Sydney Morning Herald suggests that the buyer, a “high-net-worth” individual, has paid anywhere between $120 million and $150 million for the pub. This staggering amount of money could buy an entire island or a solid gold bathtub, but we guess a fancy pub will do nicely.
The Thomas family has owned The Oaks for over five decades, and Andrew Thomas, whose father David purchased the leasehold of the 2188-square-metre property for $250,000 in 1975 and later the freehold in 1990 for $12 million, has confirmed that they will hand over the keys to the new owners in about 2½ weeks. He also revealed that the buyer is a local family in the area, although he has not met them in person. When asked about the price, Mr Thomas told the AFR that it was well above the $120 million figure being circulated in the industry.
The Oaks Hotel is a popular venue that includes Taffy’s Sports Bar, Alala’s Cocktail Bar, Bar and Grill Restaurant, the beer garden, a gaming room with 30 poker machines, extensive first-floor function spaces, and a bottle shop. The pub is famous for its 80-year-old oak tree that dominates its beer garden, and The John Meillon OBE Bar, named after the late Crocodile Dundee character actor, has been popular for years with famous identities and sports stars.
The sale of The Oaks comes amid record levels of deal activity in the pub sector, as investors and publicans chase the cash flow-generating assets, considered a good hedge against inflation and a recession. Last year, $2.2 billion of pubs changed hands, while the first two months of this year have already yielded a number of notable deals. These include the Laundy family’s acquisition of five trophy pubs for about $150 million and the sale of the Crossroads Hotel in Casula for nearly $160 million to former Sydney lord mayor Nelson Meers, which set a record for the highest price paid for a pub in Australia.
Although the buyer’s identity remains a mystery, some industry sources at the SMH speculate that they have ties to the film industry. One suggestion even posits that the buyer might be an associate of George Miller, the legendary filmmaker behind the Mad Max franchise. Despite rumours, however, pub baron Justin Hemmes and MA Financial, which owns the Beach Hotel in Byron Bay, have denied involvement.
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Despite the hefty price tag, The Oaks Hotel comes with some prime real estate that could potentially be developed further. The pub is situated on a busy corner of Neutral Bay, and its mixed-use zoning and favourable planning guidelines could allow for up to five additional levels to be added to the site.
While we may never know the true identity of the mystery buyer, agents for the sale, JLL Hotel’s John Musca and Ben McDonald have confirmed that the new owners are “long-time patrons of The Oaks.” So, we can expect a smooth transition of ownership, and The Oaks will continue to be a beloved fixture in the community.
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