Love him or hate him, no-one can deny that Harry Triguboff is Australia’s most successful residential property developer.
Since arriving in Australia in 1947, the boy who grew up in Tianjin, China, after his Russian Jewish parents fled the rise of Lenin, has built an immense business empire.
The next BRW Rich List will value the 82-year old's fortune at $10.23 billion, more than double last year's $5.5 billion. That makes him the richest man in Australia, and the second-richest person, after mining tycoon Gina Rhinehart.
It is a far cry from his first entry to the Rich List in 1984 when his net worth was put at a comparatively modest $25 million, and even further from the early days when he got his start in business owning a milk round and running a taxi fleet.
Mr Triguboff’s first foray into property development was in 1963 when he built a block of eight units at Tempe in Sydney’s inner west.
He made a profit, which led to a second development in 1968 in Gladesville on the Parramatta River. At Meriton Street, Mr Triguboff built a block of 18 units which provided the name of the company he registered in that year.
Meriton Apartments has since built almost 50,000 homes, mainly townhouses and apartments, making it Australia's biggest residential property developer.
In 2010, Meriton developed an average of 1000 apartments per year. That has since grown substantially, with the company last year leading Australia in housing starts with 7929 dwellings, about triple the number of the year before.
Mr Triguboff has concentrated on the Gold Coast, Brisbane, and Sydney's central business district.
Meriton's World Tower in the Sydney CBD[/caption]Last year, the company recorded its biggest ever profits from well over $1 billion worth of apartment sales and it expects to sell about 2500 homes this year.
While much of his profits come from sales, Mr Triguboff has also bolstered his income from leasing most of his developments to short and long-term tenants, giving him the benefits from capital appreciation.
Earlier this week, Mr Triguboff told BRW he had entered the childcare market by building childcare centres in its new developments. Meriton now owns eight childcare centres which it has leased to operators such as Active Kids at World Tower in Sydney's CBD.
Another 18 centres will be built and leased within the next 12 to 18 months, leaving Meriton with a childcare portfolio worth about $155 million, BRW reported.
“You can make better returns from the childcare centres than you can from building houses because costs have gone up," Mr Triguboff said.
"Of course, we are building far more housing but I think it is a very good thing to do.”
Mr Triguboff said childcare centres were less risky than putting shops and retail outlets in his apartment buildings.
"I'd like to put the childcare centres on four corners of my big projects if we could," he said.
Although Mr Triguboff is an extreme example, his story illustrates the fortunes that are available in property development for astute operators.
Of the 200 people on the BRW Rich List this year, 53 came from the property sector, the most of any industry.