SAM Arnaout said buying in Newcastle was a “natural progression” after his investments in the Hunter Valley.
But the reported $40 million investment in 1.66 hectares of the Hunter Street mall is just another in a string of high-profile purchases that the 37-year-old head of Iris Capital has made in 2016.
Amid reports Iris is eyeing off an eventual float on the stock exchange, it has been a busy couple of years for the firm.
Already a well-established player in the hotel industry, in 2015 Iris picked up the Mercure Parramatta hotel for around $40 million, as well as the Bourbon Hotel and former Sydney Swan Club in Potts Point.
It also sold the Mercure Hotel complex, which incorporated the Crest Hotel and Goldfish bar, in Kings Cross, and the Crown Hotel, in Parramatta, to China’s Greenland Group for about $170 million.
2016 has been just as busy. In February Iris lodged plans for a 44-storey mixed-use tower at the former PJ Gallagher’s pub in Parramatta, adding to its $100 million redevelopment of the Hunters Hill Hotel, which will include 52 apartments and 1100 square-metres of retail.
In October Iris added winery owner to its growing portfolio, with the $6 million purchase of Hungerford Hill in Pokolbin.
But it’s Mr Aranout’s private purchases that have generated the most headlines recently.
In August last year he was revealed as the buyer of the penthouse apartment of the iconic ‘Toaster’ building on Sydney Harbour.
The reported $22 million sale was the highest apartment sale for the year, and one of the richest Sydney apartment sales of all time.
His neighbours at The Toaster include Sydney radio shock jock and political kingmaker Alan Jones and former Macquarie Group investment banker Bill Moss.
In December, he was one of the first to purchase an apartment at The Revy, a luxury waterfront apartment building in Pyrmont, picking up a two-bedroom unit as an investment.
And his new weekend pad in the Hunter Valley isn’t bad either.
In June Mr Arnaout shelled out a reported $12 million for the Sweetwater Estate in Rothbury. The European-style mansion is surrounded by 48-hectares shiraz and cabernet grapevines, some of which date back as early as 1829.
It was that purchase, Mr Arnaout told the Newcastle Herald this week, that led him to fall in love with “the Newcastle story” and grab the opportunity to invest in the mall.
“Probably in the last 12 months for myself coming up here more often to our Hunter Valley properties, obviously we love the relaxed lifestyle that Newcastle has,” he said.
“And as an investor because I'm already in the Hunter Valley the next natural progression was Newcastle.