Bondi’s Icebergs sold as dining market heats up

The Bondi Icebergs in Sydney’s east. Picture: Dylan Robinson

The private O’Brien Group Australia’s purchase of the Icebergs Dining Room and Bar at Bondi Beach from former adman John Singleton for about $15 million will help it grow its leisure empire in Sydney by giving it an exposure to the booming top-end dining market.

The group’s move into the city’s premium restaurant business comes as more deep-pocketed businesses seek out returns in the lucrative sector.

Notably, high-profile hotelier Justin Hemmes has amassed a near $1 billion fortune from overseeing 70 pubs, hotels and restaurants across Sydney with his focus on dining giving him an edge over many rivals.

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Private equity firm Quadrant has also moved into the area, snapping up Neil Perry’s restaurants for about $65 million and forming the Rockpool Dining Group that has about 60 venues.

The O’Brien Group is taking a different tact by having a property exposure to the sector, which complements its expertise as major venue managers and pub owners.

Singleton stepped up to save the Icebergs club in the 1990s, when the structure was riddled with concrete cancer. He sold a lease over the property, built on crown land, until 2042, to the O’Brien Group.

The Bondi Beach restaurant and bar is now operated by chef Maurice Terzini. Terzini’s company holds a lease to Singleton until 2036, including options, giving it security over the spot for the next 18 years.

Icebergs Bondi Sydney

The Icebergs Dining Room and Bar at Sydney’s Bondi Beach.

The O’Brien Group is well versed in hospitality. Its pubs include Melbourne’s Imperial Hotel and the Prince Alfred Hotel in Richmond that is now managed by the Australian Venue Co.

The O’Brien Group also owns the Cumberland Lorne Resort in Victoria but is best known for running stadiums including Melbourne’s AAMI Park, the Gabba in Brisbane and Eden Park in Auckland.

The Icebergs sale came after an international marketing campaign via Ray White’s Asia-­Pacific director Andrew Jolliffe.

He said the popular asset was aggressively pursued by several hospitality operators from around the world before the Melbourne-based group prevailed.

“O’Brien Group Australia is delighted to add Icebergs to our existing international venue portfolio that we have carefully and proudly collated over the past 27 years,” group director Michael Xavier O’Brien said.

“We have a strong suite of premium and well-known hospitality venues situated in Australia and New Zealand.

Jolliffe says: “When you think about Australian icons, whether from a domestic or international frame of reference, Bondi’s beachfront is arguably only surpassed by Sydney’s Harbour and Uluru. Looking at the Icebergs opportunity through that lens, it is consequently unsurprising that the bandwidth of interest was so great.”

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