Syrian billionaire buys Byron at Byron resort

The Byron at Byron resort has been sold for $45 million.
The Byron at Byron resort has been sold for $45 million.

The snap $45 million purchase of retail billionaire Gerry Harvey’s prized Byron at Byron resort on the NSW North Coast has further bolstered the Australian hospitality holdings of Syrian billionaire Ghassan Aboud.

The sale of the resort, which was jointly owned by Harvey and a Harvey Norman Holdings subsidiary, ends an era for the retailer who pioneered the development of the resort and spa in 2005.

Harvey has previously told The Weekend Australian the 92-suite resort is a trophy asset like the Magic Millions, adding that he also considers some of his New Zealand horse farms prized pieces of his real estate empire.

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The resort, set amid 18ha of subtropical rainforest just outside the NSW north coast town of Byron Bay, was listed for sale in May. There had been several off-market approaches to buy it, made by a number of high profile individuals.

The resort is set among substropical rainforest.

Harvey estimates that at the time of its listing that it was worth between $40 million and $50 million.

The property is 50 per cent owned by a private entity of Mr Harvey’s, with the remainder held by a Harvey Norman Holdings subsidiary, with the decision to sell made jointly by both parties.

Harvey declined to comment. The resort’s selling agent, CBRE Hotels director Wayne Bunz, did not return calls.

Dubai-based Syrian entrepreneur Aboud initially made his money in the automotive and logistics industries. He first entered Australia’s resort market in 2016 when he established the Crystalbrook Collection Resorts. To date he has concentrated on investing in Queensland and has so far ploughed at least $100m into Australia’s resort market, developing and opening two luxury resort hotels in Cairns. A third opulent hotel dubbed ‘Flynn’ is set to open in the North Queensland town next year. All up, Crystalbrook Collection intends to invest $1 billion in Australia.

Other properties owned by Aboud include The Crystalbrook Lodge and Crystalbrook Station. They were acquired from Port Douglas businessman John Morris in early 2017 and include a 34,000ha cattle station.

The resort features 92 villas and enjoys beachfront access.

About 220km west of Cairns, the Crystalbrook Lodge features five suites and charges $1800 per room per night, all inclusive.

Aboud is also looking to expand into Port Douglas — a popular holiday spot for cashed up Sydney and Melbourne-based chief executives — building a hotel at the Marina Mirage.

He also offers one-, two- and three-day yacht charters on the Great Barrier Reef aboard his 28-metre luxury motor yacht, the MV Bahama, which is moored at Port Douglas’s prime Wharf Street.

In his first move down the eastern seaboard, Mr Aboud paid an aggressive $30 million to buy the 35-room Little Albion Guest House in Sydney’s Surry Hills last year. Several industry commentators says the price paid was extremely bullish.

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