Billionaire shopping centre magnate Frank Lowy has been under fire lately in his role as Chairman of Football Federation Australia (FIFA), after it was dragged into the corruption scandal surrounding the 2022 soccer World Cup.
Combined with a spectacular fall from the presentation dais at the A-League Grand Final (pictured), it has damaged the aura of invincibility that has long surrounded 84-year old Mr Lowy, who is Australia's greatest retail property developer.
For those familiar with his remarkable history though, it seems inevitable that Mr Lowy will recover from this setback, just as surely as he sprang back unharmed from the grass of Melbourne’s AAMI Park last month.
Like many other Australian-Jewish businessmen of his generation, including Harry Triguboff, Mr Lowy has a remarkable personal history that takes in some of the highs and lows of the 20th Century.
Lowy was born in Fiľakovo, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), and lived in hiding from the Nazis in Budapest, Hungary during World War II.
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His father Hugo Lowy, was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp where he was beaten to death by a guard but Frank Lowy managed to avoid capture and survived the war.
Many decades later, Frank would visit Auschwitz-Birkenau to speak at the March of the Living, where he shared the story of how his father perished during the Holocaust with thousands of young students from around the world who had gathered to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Frank Lowy at Auschwitz-Birkenau in front of a cattle car he donated in memory of his father.[/caption]But in 1946, this was a long way in the future. Mr Lowy made his way to France, where he left for the then-British Mandate of Palestine on the ship Yagur, but was caught en route by the British and deported to the detention camp in Cyprus.
Refugees on The Yagur[/caption]Undeterred, he later made it to Palestine, where he joined the Jewish paramilitary force the Haganah and then the regular service infantry unit the Golani Brigade, fighting during the Arab–Israeli War in the Galilee and in Gaza.
Saunders had arrived in Australia in 1950 after spending five years in a concentration camp from the age of 18.
Starting a career as a packer, Saunders eventually saved enough to purchase a delicatessen and hired Frank Lowy as one of his delivery boys.
The two developed a strong relationship and went into business together through the development of a shopping centre at Blacktown in Sydney's western suburbs, which gave their company its name – West for Western Sydney, and field for the field they developed on.
Over the next 30 years, Lowy and Saunders went from success to success, developing shopping centres across Australia and the United States, and listing the company on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1960.
These days, Westfield has 119 shopping centres across the world, which generate about $40 billion in annual sales.
After steadily succeeding as a developer and manager of shopping centres, Frank Lowy has appeared on the BRW Rich 200 list every year since it was first published in 1983.
In 2015, Mr Lowy's net wealth was assessed at $7.84 billion by BRW, making him the fourth richest person in Australia.
Which proves that property development, which this year supplied a quarter of the BRW Rich List, can be a road to phenomenal success from the most inauspicious beginnings, provided you can get past the knocks.