11 April 2020
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While Scott dines with Donald, I toast some other great Switzer students!

My commentary on both Sky News and Alan Jones’ radio program on Friday morning focused on the psychologically ordinary unemployment number. I made the point that our economic problems of late weren’t helped by the lack of convincing leadership.

I then pointed out that hopefully our Prime Minister might come home from his dinner date with Donald Trump with the kind of good news that would lift confidence, investment, retail spending, jobs and economic growth.

I argued our two most important economic leaders — Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg — have to get on the front foot and start telling us why we should believe that our economy will turn around and do well in 2020. Believe it or not, the yield curve is no longer inverted but where are the headlines on that? But I didn’t intend this piece to be one of my whinging pieces: why is the media always negative and ignoring the positive?

No, as ScoMo is my first ex-student to go to the White House to dine with a US President, I thought I’d reflect on some of my more well-known ex-students. And in doing so I might flush out a whole lot of others who I haven’t kept track of or kept tabs on.

ScoMo aside, my most famous has to be Julian McMahon, the son of former PM, Billy McMahon. Julian was in my footie team at Sydney Grammar School, was captain of boats and was a great young bloke. I recall he once told me in Year 12 that he was thinking about doing an acting and I told him to forget about it! Clearly, I was never a great judge of acting talent.

Sticking to the famous and The Block’s Scotty Cam was never a star student but was a star fella. He was always the most memorable of guys — a real good bloke but he was always up for a wind up. He’s been able to take that asset and translate it to the mass media, like the way that a fish takes to water.

On the TV theme, the very bearded Costa Georgiadis on the ABC’s Gardening Australia was simply a memorably likeable personality but I can never remember him demonstrating his green finger in class! 

Afterpay Touch (APT)

To the world of business, and the new kid on the share market block is Anthony Eisen, the co-founder of the hot stock — Afterpay Touch Group. Anthony was always the most earnest and respectful of guys and studied economics like he had one really important goal — and that was to create a business that would make him rich. And yep, as the chart above shows, he’s done that! He came from an entrepreneurial family and it showed even when he was a young man.

The AFR’s Rich List guessed Anthony’s net wealth at over half-a-billion dollars so I guess he’s kicked his goal. And given APT’s future, we haven’t seen anything yet!

Two of my star students ended up in telcos. First, David Tudehope, went to my old school Waverley College but it was at UNSW that I taught him, along with ScoMo, though they were in different years. David and his brother Aidan created Macquarie Telecom, which has been a sensational success. This 5-year snapshot of the share price tells the story pretty clearly!

The second was Vaughan Bowen, who founded the telco M2, which became a $2.2 billion takeover target and ultimately rolled into what is now known as Vocus Communications. Vaughan was a quiet-achiever and his story is worth reading for any budding entrepreneur who lacks the guts to put it all on the line.

In the economics space, Tony Brennan, until recently was Head of Equity Strategy at Citi, a role he held at Merrill Lynch in Australia and Deutsche Bank. Tony was always smart!

And coming out of the same class was RBA economist-turned journalist, Sean Alymer, who ended up Editorial Director at Fairfax Media when it was forced to change to compete with the digitally disruptive world.

Out of the media cam Stuart Gregor, who I taught at Sydney Grammar School, who ended up at NewsCorp before starting his PR business focused, initially on wine. His business was called Liquid Ideas and became a legendary business in the industry. He not only talked about libation he got into making stuff. First wine and then gin, Stu ultimately created Four Pillars, which recently was half-sold to brewing giant Lion.

I know there’ll be many great ex-students that I might have failed to mention in this story, like Sam Christie who created the great restaurant Longrain and Gary Linz, who was the Ray Croc for Oporto, who put the business on the map. To those I haven’t mentioned, I apologise. However, as I reflect upon all these former students, I realise the relationship was never one-way.

I might have put in the input but the output has been sensational. And that, in turn, has become an input for me, which powers me on to keep doing the stuff I’m blessed to do every day.

And that’s sharing the stuff that will make others smarter, wiser, richer and more competitive. And happily in all cases I’ve been a part of creating some damn, pretty good Aussies.

Go Scotty!

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