Wallabies pub king Bill Young leads $80m hotel spending spree

Former Wallaby Bill Young has reportedly taken a $40 million roll of the dice to expand his monster Sydney pub empire.

The 47-year-old is reported to have splurged the fortune in a crazy week where hotel sales soared to $80 million in the thriving pub scene with businesses returning to normal following lockdowns across the country in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Young’s huge gamble comes as former teammate and Wallabies legend George Gregan’s own hospitality empire crumbled this week.

Young had earlier this year pushed ahead with his new venture, the Illinois Hotel in Five Dock, but the former prop forward wasn’t done there.

The Financial Review reported this week Young purchased the Royal Hotel in Ryde — in Sydney’s northern suburbs — from hotelier Patrick Gallagher in a private deal.

“The Royal at Ryde follows our 2020 acquisition and recent refurbishment of the Illinois Hotel, and fits perfectly into our geographical wheelhouse,” Young said.

Player Bill Young in the Bledisloe Cup match at Eden Park, Auckland 16 Aug 2003.Source:News Limited

“Strategically, we are satisfied that we have now assembled a complementary mix of full-service hotel offerings in a demographic we know well.”

It gives Young an empire across the inner-west and northern suburbs, including The Concord.

Young is striking while the market is rebounding and recently showed off the biggest sports bar TV in Sydney — a huge 8m x 2.7m screen — installed inside the Illinois Hotel.

Gregan’s own business empire with his wife Erica has been placed into administration.

The Australian reports GG Leasing, which was established while the rugby legend was at the peak of his powers with the Wallabies and trades as GG Espresso, Eagle Lane Bistro, The George Bar and Bistro and Sydney Opera House Green Room, hopes to find a way to stay afloat.

SV Partners has been appointed to manage the situation and has already closed two of the nine venues which were still trading across Sydney and Brisbane. About 10 of 65 staff have been laid off.

Gregan was one year away from helping the Wallabies win the 1999 World Cup when he stood at Sydney’s Wynyard train station during the morning rush-hour and began counting the number of commuters exiting the platform.

Only 25 at the time, the scrum-half who would go on to captain his country and become its highest-ever internationally-capped player, was eyeing a vacant premises outside the station.

So he did his background checks to work out the level of passing trade and by 2015 had 16 GG Espresso cafes across Sydney that were part of a wider business that had annual revenues of more than $10 million and employed 280 people.

George Gregan and his wife Erica at one of their restaurants in Brisbane.Source:News Limited

But like many hospitality businesses GG Leasing has been hit hard by COVID-19 — and by the end of JobKeeper at the end of this month.

“This was quite a large business. At one stage at its height it probably had in the vicinity of 30 bars, restaurants and cafes going at once,’’ SV Partners director Ian Purchas said.

“Over recent years and I think during COVID-19 it’s worked its way down to the nine stores that were operating when I was appointed on Friday.

“Since Friday I have closed two stores. I’m trying to come to some accommodating arrangement with the landlords of four other stores, and one of the stores comes off lease at the end of this month so it’s not being renewed.

“Out of the nine the company will definitely go forward with two of them and hopefully another four.’’

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