Invested: Cannon-Brookes Buys Dunk Island

In Australian Domestic Tourism, Business Resources, Featured Home Page News

Take 3: Dunk Island and a slew of other islands look forward to development in the coming years.

Annie Cannon-Brookes buys Dunk Island amid resort tourism surge

Bringing back tourists to Dunk Island could now be on the cards. Picture: Tourism Tropical North Queensland.
Bringing back tourists to Dunk Island could now be on the cards. Picture: Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

The famed Dunk Island is poised for a reboot as a major Queensland resort after the dilapidated property sold to Annie Cannon-Brookes, the wife of Atlassian chief executive Mike Cannon-Brookes, for about $25m.

The low profile deal comes in the wake of a failed bid by Upsense Media Capital to buy the property and turn it around in the wake of a failed scheme by property funds house Mayfair to transform it into a $1.5bn tourism mecca.

A spokesperson for Annie Cannon-Brookes said; “Annie has purchased the land with the intent to preserve its natural beauty for years to come.”

The latest owner is likely to come up with a more manageable plan to resuscitate the island as domestic tourism booms prompts rises in room rates as packed flights again head to local resorts.

The Dunk Island deal was brokered by JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group’s Andrew Langsford and Nick Roche and CBRE Hotels’ Tom Gibson.

The sale of Dunk Island follows a number of island resort deals, including Six Senses Fiji as well as major islands off the east coast of Australia such as Lizard Island and Hook Island.

READ MORE:$25m tropical island sale falls through again|Dunk Island investor ordered to liquidate $67m|Media powerhouse buys derelict resort island for bargain $25m

“This transaction reinforces the appeal of investment in coastal locations and the sentiment that leisure travel across Australia is poised for continued growth,” Mr Langsford said.

“Given the history of this special asset, this is a very significant transaction for both Mission Beach and the greater Queensland tourism market,” Mr Gibson said.

Cannon-Brookes, the founder of software giant Atlassian and minority owner of the Utah Jazz basketball team, has put together a series of high-profile properties, although the island resort is a departure for him.

His purchases include a luxury, sprawling manor Wattle Ridge in the NSW Southern Highlands and he has also been linked to a sandstone heritage cottage on Scotland Island on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. His portfolio also includes a beachside home at Coaster’s Retreat at Pittwater.

In 2018, the tech billionaire and his wife Annie bought Australia‘s most expensive house, Fairwater, in Sydney’s Point Piper, for about $100m, ending more than a century of Fairfax family ownership.

He is also a heavy investor in sports. Cannon-Brookes last year joined Russell Crowe and James Packer as a co-owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs by taking a 25 per cent stake in the club. He is also a minority owner of NBA team the Jazz.

In January, it appeared that the bid to find a new owner for Dunk Island had failed for the second time in three years, even as the new owner waited in the wings.

In July, last year entertainment and media wholesale private equity fund Upsense Media Capital, co-founded by Mark Spillane and RJ Bucaria, unveiled plans to buy Dunk Island for a price believed to be between $20m and $25m.

Jetty at Dunk Island. Picture: Tourism Tropical North Queensland.
Jetty at Dunk Island. Picture: Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

At the time Mr Spillane, who has interests in live music, television and film production as well as finance, artist management, and entertainment industry consultancy, said he was delighted to have the opportunity to bring new life to the “iconic Australian asset”.

But that deal fell through late last year leaving the Bond family holding the freehold island.

Dunk Island was destroyed by cyclone Yasi in early 2011 and was later acquired by Linc Energy founder Peter Bond for about $7.5m with plans to repair and reopen the resort.

The island about 4km off Mission Beach, was sold in 2020 for about $31m to interests associated with financial entrepreneur James Mawhinney.

But Mr Mawhinney’s Mayfair 101 group ran into a regulatory trouble and financial advisory firm Grant Thornton was called in as liquidator.

Mayfair 101 managing director James Mawhinney at Mission Beach with Dunk Island in the background. Picture: Peter Carruthers
Mayfair 101 managing director James Mawhinney at Mission Beach with Dunk Island in the background. Picture: Peter Carruthers

The island is one of only a few freehold islands on the entire Great Barrier Reef and offers significant potential to develop Australia’s next major tourism icon, with mainland power connection, commercial sealed airstrip, perpetual water, and extensive utilities infrastructure.

Previously owned by Qantas and international cruise line company P&O, the former Dunk Island Resort operated as a 4.5-star family resort featuring 160 guest rooms, a 9-hole golf course, multiple food and beverage outlets, tennis courts, and day spa.

Not all deals are going ahead with Australia’s wealthiest woman Gina Rinehart last month reported to have pulled out of the purchase of an approved resort on Great Keppel Island and the transfer of leases from owner Tower Holdings to develop it.

The initial deal revealed about six months ago was rumoured to be around $50m but GKI Investments, owned by Ms Rinehart, pulled out not citing a specific reason for why it walked away.

But the big switch towards domestic travel and in particular Queensland could make the plans for the islands more practical and prompt further investment in the region.

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