AFL chief Gillon McLachlan and the billionaire family behind Reece Plumbing are among investors in the $104m acquisition of a historic cattle station in the NT.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan and the billionaire family behind Reece Plumbing are among investors in the $104m acquisition of a historic cattle station in the NT.

Footy boss backs $104m cattle station

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and the billionaire family behind Reece Plumbing are among investors in Jumbuck Pastoral's acquisition of the historic Wave Hill cattle station in Northern Territory.

The syndicate, led by Jumbuck's Adelaide-based MacLachlan family, splashed out $104m for the property, which spans 1.25 million hectares across the NT's Victoria River District, 750km south of Darwin.

The price includes the expansive landholding as well as 40,000 cattle, and is one of the highest prices ever paid for a single cattle property in Australia.

Wave Hill Station is best known as the scene of the Wave Hill Walk Off - a strike by Gurindji stockmen in 1966 which went on to shape the Aboriginal Land Rights movement in the 1970s.

Wave Hill was sold by one of Australia's largest beef producers, Western Grazing, which owned the operation since 1992.

A deal to sell the property to Jumbuck, owned by the MacLachlan family and run by the AFL chief executive's cousins Jock and Callum MacLachlan, was announced in December and settled last week.

Bentleys Queensland managing partner Ben Cameron, who led the sale process, said Western Grazing had short-listed 10 interested buyers before transacting with Jumbuck.

"There was strong interest from both local and international buyers from the start of the sale process," he said.

Wave Hill had operated an average of around 57,000 Brahman and Brahman cross cattle over the past ten years but was offered to the market last September with 40,000 head due to dry conditions throughout 2020.

The sale formed part of a strategic review of Western Grazing's property portfolio which includes five sites across regional Queensland.

Wave Hill is Jumbuck's second NT investment, having purchased the 540,000ha Killarney Station for $35m in 2014.

The family operation is one of Australia's largest sheep and cattle producers with 12 properties across South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales and the NT.

Wave Hill Station
Wave Hill Station

CBRE agribusiness director said the sector remained highly sought after by domestic and international investors.

"2020 was our biggest year and confidence in agri has again been really strong at the start of this year - whether it's beef or grain," he said.

"Commodity prices are high and stock numbers are light - meat, beef, goat - and our product is highly sought after internationally.

"Family groups are still our biggest market and some of the older money that's been around for a while - that's still the dominant buyer group."

Cattle prices hit an all-time high of $8.88 per kilogram last month, up more than $3 per kilogram from the same time last year.

In addition to higher commodity prices, Mr Schell said record low interest rates were also fuelling the market.

"There's plenty of money out there and money's cheap," he said.

"I've been in the game for a long time and we've seen interest rates fluctuate over the years, but for around three years we've had stable interest rates - I've never seen lenders out there looking for business like they are now."

ASIC documents reveal Jumbuck's Wave Hill purchase came with significant backing from the Wilson family, which owns a controlling stake in ASX-listed Reece Group, and was worth $2.5 billion in 2019 according to Forbes.

The AFL boss and Melbourne-based investor Robert Frost hold minor shareholdings.

Wave Hill was established in 1883 by renowned explorer and bushman Nat Buchanan and named Wave Hill by station manager Sam Croker after the sharp undulations of the plateau.

Jumbuck and Reece have both been contacted for comment.

Originally published as AFL chief backs $104m cattle station



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