A wealthy couple from Singapore and Taiwan has agreed to buy Great Keppel Island from property tycoon Terry Agnew in a deal understood to be worth well in excess of $50 million.
Mr Agnew’s Tower Holdings put a 162-hectare portion of the Great Barrier Reef island east of Rockhampton up for sale in May, with approvals in place for a $400 million luxury casino resort, after spending a decade and tens of millions of dollars trying to get the project off the ground.
He had hoped to sell the resort site for about $25 million having secured the Queensland state government’s commitment to deliver power and water infrastructure to the island and after the start of demolition of the old resort buildings.
But the Australian Financial Review understands the Asian power couple has agreed to buy not only the resort site but also a much larger adjoining portion, with a golf course and villas on it, taking the combined landholding sold by Mr Agnew to almost 1000 hectares.
The buyer, identified as Wei Chao Pty Ltd Singapore, lists its directors as Wan Long Wei and Pauline Wei from Taiwan as well as Peter Godber from Brisbane.
Little is known about the new owners of the island, apart from having access to a substantial pool of money – as part of securing Great Keppel, the buyers had to prove they had the funds to develop the proposed $400 million resort which will include a 250-room hotel and 250-berth marina. It is understood their bank statements showed funds of more than $700 million.
Subject to approval
Reports last month (including by London’s Financial Times) that the development of the resort on the island would be funded through a “cryptocurrency consortium” of institutional investors were dismissed as a red herring by those close to the deal.
While contracts have been exchanged between Mr Agnew and the new buyers, the deal is still subject to approval by the Queensland government for the transfer of the island’s leasehold to the new owners. A formal announcement is expected on Thursday.
The sale of Great Keppel Island was brokered by JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group’s Tom Gibson, together with Knight Frank’s Pat O’Driscoll, Ben McGrath and Dominic Ong.
Mr Gibson said: “It is an exceptional news story for not just the Queensland tourism industry, but the whole of tourism in Australia.”
If all goes smoothly the sale of Great Keppel Island will mark yet another major investment in Queensland tropical islands and resorts by Asian investors.
The Hayman Island Resort in the Whitsundays, currently being refurbished for new operator IHG after storm damage, is owned by Malaysian giant Mulpha while China Capital Investment Group owns both Daydream Island and nearby South Molle island in the Whitsundays.