The A-League’s misunderstood billionaire
Born in Melbourne in 1954, Clive Palmer remembers his dad George talking about how he had made silent movies in the 1920s and he was quite a star too.
Palmer Snr was also a good businessman and set up the first commercial radio stations in Australia; 3AK in Melbourne and 7UV in Tasmania and had the vision to see the enormous potential that radio would have in this country.
The palmer family also had the business intuition to see the great property development potential in the Gold Coast region of Queensland.
Clive Palmer grew in the Gold Coast up as a skinny kid from Surfers Paradise as a schoolboy could run like the wind. He was also an above-average scholar who was quiet and reserved, but popular among his schoolmates.
Palmer studied journalism and served as a political reporter for the University of Queensland’s newspaper, but gave up his studies and entered the world of Gold Coast real estate.
After making a small fortune on the booming growth of Gold Coast property developments, he thought he would retire at the tender age of 29.
After a stint of travelling the world he returned as the media manager for Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s all-powerful Queensland National Party and developed a strong interest in Queensland politics and how to influence people.
But Clive Palmer soon got tired of the good life and started up three companies in oil trading, minerals research and development and mining, which eventually made him Queensland’s richest man, worth a cool $6 billion.
Palmer has never lost the taste for the good life. He owns fabulous properties, private jets, dines with heavyweights such as premiers, prime ministers, Sultans, Sheiks’ and other world leaders and considers himself a friend of the Kennedys and Vladimir Putin.
Clive also likes a bit of sport and the occasional punt and has invested large chunks of his personal fortune into an extensive harness racing stable and the Gold Coast United A-League football club.
Palmer approached the Gold Coast United football venture with the same confidence he goes into negotiations with Chinese governments over iron ore prices.
He famously boasted before the new A-League franchise had even kicked a ball, that the Gold Coast would win the A-League competition undefeated in their first year. Of course that never happened.
The venture hasn’t enjoyed the best support from the local community either and attendances and TV ratings have been quite poor compared to other A-League clubs and compared to the Gold Coast Titans NRL team, who share the same Skilled Stadium in Robina.
Palmer then famously and bizarrely ordered that home crowds at Robina be restricted to below 5,000 to get around the even stranger Queensland government charges for providing police, ambulance and transport to Queensland sporting venues.
Palmer of course saw it as a business decision.
“The facts are, we pay $150,000 to $200,000 for a match, and we’ve had 5000 people turn up. Yet if we nominate 5000 people before the match, we only pay $30,000″, he said.
“That’s a hell of a difference to the club, yet we get hammered for that. That is disappointing.”
Palmer, who is used to doing things his way, has also had a falling out with Frank Lowy, the FFA and fans over decisions like that and how he runs the club.
At one stage Palmer was reported to be pulling Gold Coast United out of the A-League.
Rumours started in the Queensland media that Palmer was in talks with the FFA and Queensland Roar about dumping the Gold Coast and buying Brisbane Roar, who were looking for new owners.
Palmer eventually denied the rumours and pledged his support for Gold Coast United in the A-League for “at least another couple of years”.
Things didn’t improve and attendances still crept lower till finally Palmer agreed to let the fans in for free to try and pick up attendances and community interest.
20,000 tickets were “sold“ for free entry for the Central Coast game at Robina, but ironically the game was washed out and abandoned after just 20 minutes.
Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer then again threw open the gates of Skilled Park – this time to aid the Queensland floods appeal.
United’s home clash against the Newcastle Jets was “free” to all supporters, with supporters asked to make a gold coin donation to the Queensland flood relief appeal.
At the start of this season, Palmer once again predicted a strong year for the Gold Coast, that they had their best team ever and they would win the league – but they currently sit at the bottom of the A-League table.
Even more bizarrely, last Friday’s night’s Gold Coast United “home game” advantage against Adelaide was sold to Adelaide.
The game was supposed to be played at Robina, but was actually played at Hindmarsh Stadium and still officially a Gold Coast home game.
Once again Palmer’s brilliant business logic running a football club from outside the box, as he collected money from Adelaide without having the cost of staging the game at Robina.
Palmer’s moves have obviously not impressed a lot of people on the Gold Coast and things like restricting home crowds to 5,000, giving away free tickets and selling your home games will probably have the opposite effect in terms of raising Gold Coast community interest and attendances at Robina.
A lot of people still don’t quite understand the misunderstood billionaire’s way of thinking, and at the same time are starting to wonder how long the Gold Coast will remain a part of the A-League’s future.
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