A month after she died in her stately Point Piper mansion Fairwater, Lady (Mary) Fairfax’s extraordinary, $ 600 million estate remains shrouded in mystery and intrigue.
Exactly who will get what and how much remains a question on many lips across “old” Sydney’s establishment circles.
Private Sydney: Definitely maybe Sophie’s choice
While just about everyone is claiming Sophie Monk picked Stu Laundy as her ultimate bachelor, PS now hears that the relationship couldn’t have lasted much longer than the finale. Andrew Hornery investigates.
At last month’s funeral, Lady Fairfax’s four children – Garth, Warwick, Anna and Charles – along with their children, put on a united front to farewell their mother, though the years of estrangement and bad blood within the family were impossible to ignore for much of the congregation.
According to the Australian Financial Review Rich List, at the time of her death at age 95, Lady Fairfax was the 113th richest person in the country.
Her worth was conservatively estimated at $ 597 million, though others suggest it could me much more given the broad range of business interests and assets she owned.
Fairwater alone, sitting on more than 8000 square metres of prime harbourfront land, has been estimated to be worth more than $ 100 million.
It is still unclear if the property will be sold, as has been widely speculated in the media, with Lady Fairfax’s family yet to make any public comment since her death about the future of the historic arts and crafts pile.
There had been a widely held understanding that ownership of Fairwater would be held by a trust on behalf of the people of NSW and “never be sold”, as Lady Fairfax herself indicated back in 1996. No plans have yet materialised outlining such an endeavour.
This week, staff at the property, including her loyal and long-standing personal assistant Lee Thomas, were still answering callers with the traditional Fairwater greeting. However, others who have been in the home since Lady Fairfax’s death describe it as eerily empty after 50 years of habitation by one of the most interesting players in the public, social, political and artistic lives of Sydney and Australia.
Over the years, Fairwater also housed one of the most extraordinary collections of priceless artworks and objet d’art, not just in the country, but the world.
The two-metre tall bronze nude Rodin sculpture that greeted guests for years at Fairwater could fetch millions of dollars on the international market. A similar-scale work by the same artist sold nearly a decade ago at Christie’s in New York for US$ 18.9 million, then a record price for the artist.
Fairwater also boasted other priceless works by the likes of Chagall, Degas and Boyd, just part of a collection which would easily fetch many millions more.
Then there are the extensive hotels she owned across Sydney, and managed by her confidante and adviser, Sydney pub baron Bruce Solomon.
Lady Fairfax was a close friend of Solomon’s late mother Genia, the pair having been friends since 1929 when Genia lived at the Solomon family’s Burdekin Hotel in Oxford Street and Lady Fairfax’s parents ran a frock boutique just a few doors away.
“They were very good friends, a pair of Sydney girls who remained close all their lives,” Bruce Solomon told PS, confirming he was still managing several of Lady Fairfax’s hotels, as he had done for decades.
During his emotional eulogy, Lady Fairfax’s oldest son, Garth, thanked Solomon for advising his mother, gratis, for so many years, recounting his mother’s great affection for Solomon’s mother: “Genia loved mum and mum loved Genia. Each morning they would walk along the seashore and Mum’s driver Ted would follow in the Rolls.”
Among Lady Fairfax’s portfolio of hotels are Surry Hills’ The Clock, The Marlborough and The Bank in Newtown and The Regent in Kingsford, collectively worth about $ 100 million.
It was during the mid 1980s that Lady Fairfax became more involved in business and started her extensive development of Harrington Park at Camden, bought by her media scion husband Sir Warwick Fairfax as a cattle property in the 1940s.
Lady Fairfax’s investment company Aslim continues to develop Harrington Park and Harrington Grove residential estates in south-western Sydney, projects boasting thousands of new homes which have contributed many millions of dollars into the estate.
While there had been reconciliation with all her children in later years, there was a period of bitter estrangement for both Garth and Warwick.
Following her salacious divorce from her first husband Cedric Symonds, custody of then seven-year-old Garth was unusually – for the time – awarded to the young boy’s father.
During an interview with the journalist David Leser in 1991, Lady Fairfax recalled the period with tears in her eyes, revealing: “My friends used to tell me when Garth was going to a movie. I would stand in the dark and watch my child.”
Years later it was her second son, Warwick, who was the source of much grief for Lady Fairfax. His abortive attempt to wrest control of the Fairfax media empire cost his mother $ 192 million in 1987.
However, Warwick and his mother reconciled many years ago, and both he and Garth, along with their siblings and their broader families, would feature prominently in her annual, eight-page Christmas card, replete with various updates on family events, from weddings to graduations.
And it was all her children who surrounded her at Fairwater when she died last month.
Monika Tu agency headed to court
The lavish parties, the diamonds, the furs, the celebrities, the vintage Dom Perignon, the Rolls-Royce with its very own crystal studded ceiling, the mansions, the private jets, the super yachts, the millions … going by Sydney celebrity real estate queen Monika Tu’s Instagram feed, it would appear the self-described “lifestyle concierge” for billionaire Chinese investors coming to Sydney has paid handsome dividends.
But apparently not everyone around her sees it quite that way.
Everyone around Sydney celebrity real estate queen Monika Tu doesn’t think everything is all rosy, despite what her Instagram suggests. Photo: James Brickwood
PS can reveal Tu’s Sydney real estate agency Black Diamondz is at the centre of two legal battles being waged by former star agents, Rob Page and Martin Ross, who claim Tu and her business owe them hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid commissions from some of the biggest trophy home sales made to Chinese buyers.
While Tu disputes the claims, she declined to comment to PS about her former agents, saying she was confident to leave it to the courts.
However, listed in the NSW District Court is a matter between former Black Diamondz agent Robert Page, who is suing Tu’s company, Khatter Group International, which owns Black Diamondz, over his claims for unpaid commissions.
Life is lavish in Monika Tu’s Instagram. Photo: Instagram/@monikatubd
Page is suing for more than $ 100,000.
Meanwhile another former agent of Tu’s, Martin Ross, is embroiled in a separate battle over his claims for unpaid commissions.
While Ross’s matter has not made it to court yet, he has retained a solicitor and barrister to handle his case.
Monika Tu describes herself as a “lifestyle concierge”. Photo: Louie Douvis
It was Ross who sold Point Piper’s magnificent Mandalay estate in 2015 for a staggering $ 39.9 million, the highest result of the year and at the time a record for a non-waterfront Australian house.
The house was bought by Chinese road construction and eco-resort developer Phillip Dong Fang Lee and his wife, Shi Xiaobei, with the sale affording a hefty commission for the agent, though the deal has left a sour taste for Ross and was a catalyst for his legal action.
Neither Page nor Ross were prepared to comment when PS called this week.
Crichton’s big spend
Whispers that newlywed luxury car importer Neville Crichton had chartered Jim Clarke’s supermaxi Comanche to race in this year’s Sydney to Hobart appear to be only part of the story.
It appears the deal has developed somewhat and Croaky, who married exotic beauty Nadi Hassandiac in a spare-no-expense wedding earlier this year, is now considering buying the boat, with not much change out of $ 20 million.
Neville Crichton and Nadi Hassandiac got hitched earlier this year. Photo: Supplied
Unlike Jim Clarke’s wife, former Aussie supermodel Kristy Hinze, Crichton’s new wife admits her sea legs are better in Dior heels on terra firma. Crichton is a sailing tragic from way back and has ambitions to be front and centre of this year’s race, with his sights firmly set on beating his high seas nemesis, Sandy Oatley’s Wild Oats.
Meanwhile PS has learned that embattled celebrity accountant Anthony Bell has offloaded his racing yacht Loyal, with a mystery buyer picking up the sleek vessel for about $ 5 million.
Bell was famously last seen at the helm when his crew took out the Sydney to Hobart a year ago, just as his marriage to his glamorous television wife Kelly Landry was unravelling.
While PS has previously reported that certain parties have high hopes for a reconciliation, this column can happily report that while the couple have not reunited, they are successfully working towards co-parenting their two little girls.
It appears Neville Crichton is now buying Jim Clarke’s supermaxi Comanche. Photo: Supplied
Did Stu Laundy win the Bachelorette?
It’s the worst kept secret in Australian television: Sophie Monk’s choice in the latest season of The Bachelorette. While just about everyone in Sydney is claiming Monk picked money bags publican Stu Laundy, PS now hears that the relationship didn’t last much longer than the first ad break after the yet-to-screen finale.
Monk has been out of town for the past fortnight, claiming she could not trust herself to not give up the game before Channel Ten could screen the result.
However, a few of those close to Laundy report he has been wasting no time and launched himself back into Sydney’s shark infested singles waters and has been spotted with another glamorous blonde, who was most definitely not Sophie Monk.
Just about everybody in Sydney is claiming Sophie Monk picked Stu Laundy as the winner on The Bachelorette. Photo: Network 10
Weinstein’s wedding list
The Harvey Weinstein circus has kept celebrity watchers transfixed this week, but it is interesting to see just how star-studded the Hollywood mogul’s world once was not so long ago.
In 2007, he made Marchesa fashion designer Georgina Chapman his Bride of Weinstein in a lavish wedding at his country estate outside of New York.
Happier times: Harvey Weinstein with wife Georgina Chapman in 2012. Photo: Andy Kropa
Going through the images this week PS recognised the sweet little face on the flowergirl, who happened to be Grace Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s second youngest daughter.
And yes, Rupert and his then wife Wendi were at the wedding, along with just about every other major media hitter on the planet, including Vogue‘s Anna Wintour, Vanity Fair‘s Gaydon Carter and Mort Zuckerman, owner of New York’s Daily News. And yet the guy can’t get any good press?