Developers take an early hit on stamp duty ahead of government cuts

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First home buyers: Stamp duty cuts up to $600,000Stamp duty cuts won’t help house price affordabilityStamp duty savings: What $600,000 buys in Victoria
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Developers and builders are copping hits into the tens of thousands of dollars by covering stamp duty for their first-home buyer customers, in order to avoid a lull in the market ahead of the official tax cut later this year.

First home buyers can now save stamp duty – up to $15,000 – on a string of Victorian apartment projects and house and land packages, getting a head start on the state government’s cuts which will come into affect across the board on July 1.

It follows an announcement a fortnight ago by the Andrews government that it would waive stamp duty for all first-home buyers on properties worth up to $600,000 in the new financial year. The move will cease the current stamp duty saving offered to all off the plan purchasers, including investors.

It is understood many investor-driven developers are moving project release dates forward, in order to to capture investor dollars before the tax cut is removed.

The announcements have been met with mixed feelings by the development industry, given incentives will now fall far more heavily in favour of owner-occupier projects than investor-driven developments.

For those developers and builders who have a large portion of their projects tied to the first-home buyer segment, the July 1 commencement date presented a potential hiatus for the market. Some newly released developments saw an immediate drop in inquiries from first timers.

Porter Davis, which will pay the stamp duty for Victorian first home buyers who use the builder for land contracts, brought forward marketing plans to target first-home buyers by several months so it could ride the wave of interest generated by the announcements.

“I was just fearful that people were going to delay their decision,” sales and marketing director Paul Wolff said. “We bought a campaign forward on the back of the hype and leveraging from the government’s media on [the idea of], ‘how does first home ownership happen sooner rather than later?”

Given how quickly land prices were rising, those who waited until July 1 may have lost more than they saved on the tax cut, he said.

Mr Woolf also said he would retrospectively apply the saving to any first-home buyers who purchased land after October 31 last year and would match the figure if a buyer also received the stamp duty cut from their developer.

Developers of Richmond’s Supply & Co. are offering stamp duty savings even more broadly. All owner-occupier buyers can get the savings, as well as 5 per cent deposits, on the David Street project.

Beller Real Estate’s Heath Thompson, the agent selling Supply & Co. development, said the offer was a way to make the apartments attainable for first home buyers, who may be beaten investors keen to jump on the tax dodge before it ends.

“Investors have an increased appetite to purchase prior to 30th June,” Mr Thompson said. “But first-home buyers may actually miss out because they think ‘we’ll wait’.”

He said the changes to the tax will undoubtedly put more roadblocks in the way for investors, who were already facing stricter lending conditions.

Developer OpenCorp, the team behind The Eastside Village in Hawthorn East, will also cover stamp duty for all buyers for the next few months and developer Growland will also waive the tax on their Victoria Square (previously Joseph Place) project in Footscray.

Developers hunker as banks turn off dollar tap

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Developers are hunkering down as the housing sector faces a tsunami of warnings from regulators and banks.
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Warnings about apartment oversupply and over-leveraged investors, both domestic and offshore, have gushed from regulators but have failed to stem investment levels.

While banks have curbed lending to developers, the Andrews government in Victoria has proposed removing stamp duty discounts on off-the-plan sales to investors in a bid to dampen unbridled apartment development.

But developers have defended themselves against the sternest criticism, arguing that apartments are renting quickly and settling without much drama.

Listed developer Mirvac warned in February that settlement defaults had hit 2 per cent as investors struggled to get finance but most of those had resold at a profit.

Sydney-based Matrix Property principal Andrew Antonas said distressed settlements were running at less than 4 per cent in the Sydney market as finance dried up.

“There is a little bit of failing to settle but not much. Even then the units are able to resell. The biggest risk to the market is finance on development sites,” Mr Antonas said.

“The things that drove this market a year ago was government policies, overseas investors, low interest rates and banks throwing money at people,” he said.

“Well they’ve banked their profits and now they’ve changed their tune and the money tap is off,” he said.

“We’re not going to have any oversupply in two to three years’ time. The supply side is being switched off,” he said.

In Melbourne, developers are reporting good settlements, especially in developments that have a strong owner-occupier component.

Boutique fund manager Ashley Wain from Forza Capital said “It depends on the quality of your product, how you sold it and who you sold it too.

“If you get a product that doesn’t appeal to the owner-occupier market you are probably going to struggle. When we bought in Richmond we paid the equivalent of $45,000 a unit but others have paid more than double that,” Mr Wain said.

Forza Capital has only one residential development on its books, the 130-unit Supply Co in Richmond between Victoria Gardens and the Yarra Rivers.

“We have reached 85 per cent pre sales and we sold two-thirds to owner occupiers. We started with 140 apartments but had to change the floor plans to suit the owner-occupier market who want bigger units.

Evolve’s Ashley Williams said “We finished a building in January and settled 100 per cent of 65 apartments in February and 15-20 of those were overseas purchasers.

“They all came through with the settlement and all of the apartments sold to investors have been rented,” he said.

Gurner director Tim Gurner settled 400 apartments over three projects this year in West Melbourne and Collingwood.

“Earlier this year at our Ikebana project in West Melbourne we placed 150 apartments on the rental market and received over 1500 applications 10 days later. And at 107 Cambridge Street in Collingwood, we had 50 apartments n the rental pool and all were rented within hours,” Mr Gurner said.

“Anyone who is talking about an apartment oversupply just needs to visit the rental openings across suburbs like Collingwood, Fitzroy , West Melbourne and Brunswick to understand this is just not the case.”

“We have created larger owner-occupier apartments that demand a much higher rent than other apartments in the area and people are still willing to bid against each other to secure one of them,” he said.

Folkestone, Villa World on expansion path

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Investors are being tapped for about $40 million with the launch of a new fund by Folkestone and a capital raising by Villa World.
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The two groups are taking advantage of the increased demand for higher yielding property assets in the current low-interest-rate environment.

Villa World, the Queensland-based residential developer, sought a trading halt on Tuesday as it organised a capital raising of about $20 million, at about $2.20 a security, through Morgans. Under its capital management strategy, last month the group extended the maturity dates for a $140 million bank financing arrangement.

The funds will go towards its latest aquisition, a $33 million, 42-hectare site in the Melbourne south-east suburb of Clyde.

The purchase comes with an existing residential zoning for more than 400 home sites.

The Clyde growth corridor has already drawn strong demand for Villa World with sales at its Cardinia Views estate, at Pakenham, outstripping forecast and due to sell out well ahead of schedule.

Villa World chief executive Craig Treasure said at the time of the Clyde deal, that the company has welcomed the state government’s incentive package for first home buyers, adding to its existing interest in expanding its footprint in Victoria to match the company’s Queensland portfolio.

Mr Treasure said he considered the Melbourne market to be extremely strong right now, buoyed by population growth.

“We have been looking to grow our five to six-year pipeline of projects in Victoria, specifically in the south-east corridor because of the proximity to transport, excellent education facilities and attractive retail precincts,” Mr Treasure said.

Villa World last month reported a strong half-year profit result, which led to an upgrade in its full-year guidance to a profit after tax of $37.5 million, representing 11 per cent expected growth on its 2016 result.

Folkestone is also increasing its footprint into Victoria with the creation of Folkestone Wollert Development Fund, which has an 80 per cent interest in a 42.2-hectare residential land subdivision known as Amber, in Wollert.

The fund is looking to raise $19.05 million, with Folkestone investing an additional $6.35 million through its co-investment in the fund. It will target an internal rate of return of 17 per cent, after fees and a forecast return on equity, after fees of 56 per cent.

Folkestone’s managing director, Greg Paramor, said securing of the land in Wollert, in joint venture with ID-Land, prior to rezoning and then selling down to a Folkestone managed fund after rezoning “is consistent with our strategy to use our balance sheet to secure attractive investment opportunities for our funds management platform”.

“At the same time it has generated a strong investment return to Folkestone from the rezoning fee,” Mr Paramor said.

Amber is within the Wollert Precinct Structure Plan. which was recently approved by the Victorian government as a major new masterplanned suburb in Melbourne’s northern growth corridor, near Craigieburn and Mernda.

Under the scheme, the fund will develop, in joint venture with ID-Land, about 560 residential lots providing a selection of lot sizes and price points to suit a range of buyers. ID-Land will manage the delivery of the project on behalf of the joint venture.

Scanlan & Theodore owner buys store in Brighton

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Upmarket fashion retailer Scanlan & Theodore looks set to open a large store in Church Street, Brighton, after buying a double-fronted shop for $8.37 million.
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Title documents obtained by BusinessDay show Scanlan & Theodore owner Gary Theodore was behind the off-market purchase of a two-level property that has recently been redeveloped at 59 and 61 Church Street.

Melbourne-based Scanlan & Theodore, one of the city’s more successful home-grown fashion retailers, has stores in Eastland shopping centre, Melbourne Central, Melbourne Emporium, Little Collins Street and on high streets in Armadale and South Yarra.

The chain also has six boutique outlets in Sydney and multiple stores in other n capital cities.

The high-profile brand is one of the few local traders to successfully navigate the onslaught of international retailers setting up shop in and the digital shopping tsunami.

This year other well-known brands Marcs, David Lawrence, Rhodes & Beckett and Herringbone have been placed in administration.

The purchase will allow Scanlan & Theodore to set up in Church Street, which has one of the tightest vacancy rates among suburban strips.

In August 2015 vacancies on the strip were 0.6 per cent, a rate that stepped up slightly the following year to 4 per cent, according to a Knight Frank survey.

Footwear brand Wittner Shoes recently leased space at 18 Church Street in a six-year deal at $105,000 per annum, while Sports brand Nike moved into the former Middle Brighton Post Office last year on a seven-year deal at $185,000 per annum.

CBRE’s Rory James said although it was unusual for retailers to purchase premises rather than lease, the building was a good long-term investment proposition.

The purchase allowed the privately-held Scanlan & Theodore to control their outgoings, he said.

An ANZ bank retail report released Tuesday said intense competitive pressure around pricing and slowing growth in retail sales per capita were likely to continue to make retail trading conditions difficult.

“With only 16 per cent of the world’s top 250 retailers currently with a physical presence in , and the rumoured opening of Amazon this year, we expect pricing pressure to remain intense for at least the next year or two,” the ANZ said.

LOGOS Property ink $60m industrial land deal

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LOGOS Property has increased its footprint in the industrial property space with two new sites that have an end development value of about $60 million.
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It adds to the group’s $2 billion worth of developments under management across China, Singapore and possible new ventures in Indonesia.

In separate sales, the Macquarie Capital-backed LOGOS, has bought a site in John Morphett Place, Erskine Park, Sydney for about $15 million and another at 47 Logistics Place, Larapinta, Queensland, worth about $10 million.

Development starts in 2017, with the NSW site having an end value of close to $40 million and in Queensland, about $20 million.

It comes as LOGOS is expanding rapidly with offices across Asia and new acquisitions, also backed by the North American Ivanhoe Cambridge and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

The group says, with its partners, it has the capacity to deploy about $US400 million ($519 million) into modern logistics warehouses and development projects, which are the main beneficiaries in the global e-commerce sector.

The Larapinta property comprises of 17,480 square metres of site area with an existing development approval for an 8000 sq m industrial facility which will be speculatively developed.

CBRE senior director Peter Turnbull ,who sold the Queensland site, said it was strategically located in the established southern industrial corridor of Heathwood and Larapinta and will benefit from nearby transport links.

LOGOS joint managing director, John Marsh, said as one of the few remaining sites in Larapinta, “the property presents a prime develop to core opportunity”.

“LOGOS has had a strong history developing and managing logistics assets in Larapinta and Heathwood and are already seeking further landbanks to develop”.

The Erskine Park site will accommodate up to 19,000 sq m of space and benefits from the prime frontage. The group has already secured a pre-commitment for about 7500 sq m and will look to speculatively develop the balance of the site.

Regional director CBRE industrial, Jason Edge, said demand continues to outstrip the speculative supply within western Sydney, predominantly in and around Erskine Park.

“This is having a positive impact on rent and incentive levels for owners and developers,” Mr Edge said.

LOGOS has developed and managed over 100,000 sq m of space in Erskine Park including $150 million of adjoining sites to its recent acquisition.

LOGOS joint managing director, Trent Iliffe, said Sydney is feeling the weight of a land-constrained market.

“We remain committed to sourcing and acquiring opportunities in key logistics markets to facilitate our growing portfolio and existing customers needs across ,” Mr Iliffe said.

In Melbourne, tile and stone importer and distributor National Tiles, has finalised a pre-lease for a 14,871 sq m purpose-built distribution centre in Frasers Property ‘s The West Park Industrial Estate in Truganina.

Frasers Property will also speculatively develop a 15,152 sq m office and warehouse facility adjacent to the National Tiles building. The combined development will have an investment value around $32 million.

National Tiles plans to relocate from its Port Melbourne warehouse into the new facility, which incorporates a 371 sq m office and a 14,500 sq m warehouse. The company has committed to a six-year lease term and is expected to move in later this year.

According to Colliers International research, the supply demand ratio of industrial land is shifting. On the east coast, Melbourne and Sydney in particular, the housing boom has brought an intense focus on the supply of residential.

A large proportion of this has been through urban regeneration, the change of zoning from industrial to residential.

‘We took action when we could’: Worsfold responds to drug report

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Former West Coast Eagles coach John Worsfold has hit back at AFL legend Kevin Bartlett’s remarks he had put a “black line” through the team’s 2006 premiership in the wake of a confidential report laying bare the club’s then-drug problems.
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A damning 87-page report, prepared by retired Victorian Supreme Court judge William Gilliard in 2008 but never released by the AFL, was published by News Corp on Tuesday.

The report centres on one of the club’s most successful eras – from 2001 to 2007 when the Eagles made two grand finals and won a premiership spearheaded by 2005 Brownlow medallist Ben Cousins.

A culture of drug-taking was “well in place” by the end of 2003, the report found.

Worsfold told Radio 3AW on Tuesday afternoon he believed the club took action against players when they had strong enough evidence to do so.

“I learnt a massive amount [from the Eagles drug saga],” he said.

“You’re always learning but the number one thing is your communication has to be so strong ,you do put a lot of trust in players… as coaches when your players tell you something you do put a lot of faith in the fact that that person’s going to be honest.

“It’s disappointing… I know how [Collingwood coach] Nathan Buckley feels… that’s just part of the industry that we’re in.”

Gillard’s report alleges the drug culture at the club could be traced back to 2000, based on “success, arrogance (and) a belief that what the players did in their own time was their own business” as well as the “rock star status” players such as Cousins enjoyed in Perth.

“Most of the players would have known by 2004 that some of the senior and better players were dabbling in illicit drugs,” Gillard found.

“Yet nothing was done. The players concerned were playing good football.

“Coach Worsfold was told by at least three fairly reliable sources in 2002 that some players were taking illicit drugs and were mixing with undesirable persons and could get themselves into trouble.

“Two names were mentioned, Cousins and (Michael) Gardiner. They were spoken to by the coach, and the players responded that there was nothing to worry about.”

Worsfold said the club was forced to make some tough decisions during the 2000s, and that he accepted they would be judged by others as to whether or not the club acted quickly enough.

“We did have to make some tough calls through 2005 to 2008, letting players go that weren’t going to be a part of the vision we had for the footy club,” he said.

He also responded to comments from AFL great Kevin Bartlett that he had put “a black line” through the club’s 2006 premiership.

“With what we’ve known in the past and observed with news stories over the years regarding troubled times for the West Coast Eagles players, I’ve had an asterisk next to their 2006 premiership win. After reading Judge Gillard’s report today, I’m taking away the asterisk and putting in a black line through that flag,” Bartlett said on SEN radio.

Worsforld told Radio 3AW, “I think he’s just making an emotional comment on information that he’s chosen to believe. He doesn’t have all the information.”

Former club captain Chris Judd has also defended the club’s flag during an interview with Triple M, stressing the premiership wasn’t tainted because there has never been any suggestion that performance-enhancing drugs were ever used by any of his teammates.

“The premiership was built on hard work and it was certainly my proudest moment in AFL footy,” he said.

Key players from that premiership have fallen on hard times in recent years, most notably Ben Cousins, Daniel Kerr, Chad Fletcher and Daniel Chick.

On Monday, Cousins pleaded guilty to a string of charges including aggravated stalking, several breaches of a violence restraining order and possessing eight grams of methamphetamine.

He remains in jail awaiting his sentence, with his lawyer telling the court the former captain was willing to go to residential rehabilitation to avoid a prison sentence.

– with Ronny Lerner and AAP

Shifting safety net would ‘fix youth unemployment’

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Iain Ross, Fair Work President, during a Senate Committee hearing at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 28 May 2012.Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe employment safety net needs a wide-ranging overhaul and minimum rates of pay should be cut in order to help solve youth unemployment, says former Fair Work Commission vice-president Graeme Watson.
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In in his first public appearance since resigning last month, Mr Watson used a speech at the Centre for Independent Studies on Tuesday to criticise his former boss, Fair Work Commission president Iain Ross.

Mr Watson suggested Mr Ross had presided over an administration that marginalised commissioners like himself with a business background in favour of others who, like Mr Ross, had a union background.

The national safety net was set higher than other countries, he said, and was unusual by international standards.

He said the entire safety net including minimum wages, allowances, leave entitlements and penalty rates needed review.

“My view is that a review of the entirety of the safety net, Sunday penalties being only one part of that, is a useful thing to do and it should be conducted in an expert manner and in a comprehensive way,” Mr Watson said.

“We have a very high level of minimum wages. In addition to that we have higher minimums for skilled employees above the minimum rate, which is unusual by international standards.

“Then we have all sorts of add-ons, such as allowances and penalty rates, which are also unusual and leave entitlements.”

Mr Watson said during the global financial crisis, youth unemployment rose in .

“But it didn’t go down after the end of the GFC as it did in other countries. It stayed at quite a high level,” he said.

“I think the level of the safety net that applies in a proscriptive way in entry level employment must be a factor in that.” Commission dysfunctional

A former partner at law firm Freehills, Mr Watson was the last remaining Coalition appointee in a senior role at the commission and a strong dissenter in favour of business.

He declared the Fair Work Commission was “partisan, dysfunctional and divided” when he announced his resignation from the Fair Work Commission in January.

He and another former commissioner Michael Roberts had agreed there was a need to review Sunday penalty rates for restaurants. But he said the commission majority had not agreed. The controversial changes that were proposed in a landmark commission decision last month were more “modest” than he had suggested.

“In the restaurants case Michael Roberts and I said that there was a need to review the appropriateness of penalty rates in contemporary society and that balancing of considerations such as employment opportunities,” he said.

Mr Watson said his analysis of full bench decisions from 2013 to July 2015 found that the presidential members most frequently allocated to the most important decisions had a union background as opposed to a business background.

“The practice of favouring some members and marginalising others in full bench allocations, similar to the NSW commission A and B team approach is well known to close observers of Fair Work Commission practice,” he said.

“However, the practices are heavily camouflaged and difficult to expose. It is very easy, for example, to allocate members to insignificant Full Bench matters and create the appearance of equal treatment.”

Mr Ross was contacted for comment. Aerocare justified

In response to a question about his decision in favour of an enterprise agreement which allowed n aviation services company Aerocare to split shifts for aviation workers, Mr Watson said he had considered the workers were better off overall.

In his decision of 2013, Mr Watson said the minimum three-hour shifts under the Aerocare enterprise agreement was a “disadvantage” to workers compared to the minimum four-hour shifts required under the Award.

“I do not believe that a three-hour work period followed by a subsequent one-hour unpaid meal break is consistent with the award requirement that employers roster part-time employees for a minimum of four consecutive hours on any shift or the minimum payment of four hours for casuals,” he said.

“I propose to consider this change as a detriment to both part-time and casual employees.”

However, considering all the circumstances, Mr Watson said he was satisfied the advantages within the enterprise agreement outweighed the disadvantages.

On Tuesday, Mr Watson said the better off overall test requires a finding that no employee is worse off overall compared with the terms of the relevant Award. Coles failed

“There could well be some detriments in certain respects but there could also be benefits in other respects and you need to make an assessment on an overall basis,” he said.

“Many agreements in retail, fast food and similar industries are designed to soften the impact of award provisions in retail for example, to flatten penalties across the week rather than have them in peaks on weekends.

“Those sorts of agreements need to be scrutinised very closely and an assessment needs to be made of the overall impact on every group of employees affected by it. And that was the basis for my approval of that agreement.

“The company engaged senior counsel and extensive material to demonstrate that all employees were better off overall even though in some respects there were some detriments compared to the Award.”

Mr Watson said if employers believe the better off overall test is inappropriate, “they need to seek a change to the law, but in the meantime the law needs to be applied”.

A full bench decision he presided over had overturned an agreement for Coles workers because it did not comply with the test.

“It appears in that Coles case that the union and Coles had been prepared to see favourable treatment to some employees as a trade off of unfavourable treatment to others,” he said.

“That’s not the proper application of the test. Every employee must be better off overall.”

Former PM Keating turns property financier

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Former prime minister Paul Keating has taken a financial stake and board position at property financiers MaxCap, a group leading the charge on super funds investing in lucrative commercial real estate lending.
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MaxCap group, which specialises in commercial real estate debt, recently teamed up with the nation’s biggest industry super fund, n Super, to offer large $100 million-plus loans direct to developers.

Mr Keating, who added his voice this week to other industry and finance experts warning the Turnbull government against allowing superannuation savings to be used to be used for house purchases, joined MaxCap late last year as a director.

The former PM’s government was behind the 1992 creation of ‘s compulsory employer contribution scheme that now looks after $2 trillion in superannuation retirement savings.

MaxCap managing director and founding partner Wayne Lasky said Mr Keating was providing the firm with strategic advice and had invested in the business.

“If a former head of state seeks to take an investment in a business, they do even more due diligence than institutional investors. Paul carefully guards his legacy, and rightfully so. Having done that work with us, he wanted to get a stake. We’re happy to accommodate it,” Mr Lasky said.

“It’s a big shot in the arm to the sector. When you’ve got the big instos [institutional investors] participating and you’ve got the former prime minister participating, you can see where it’s moving to in the future.”

MaxCap’s investment thesis focuses on filling the gap in commercial lending left by the banks after the country’s financial watchdog, the n Prudential Regulatory Authority, clamped down in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Mr Lasky said ‘s commercial property lending was a $220 billion market, with more than 80 per cent of funding dominated by the big four banks.

APRA’s ongoing clampdown and the imposition of stricter international Basel banking requirements will shrink the bank’s market share and open up a $30 to $40 billion funding gap, he said.

“There’s a structural dislocation which has been taking place since the crisis. If you’ve got the capital, there’s pretty good lending to be done,” Mr Lasky said.

MaxCap placed $300 million in private funds through first mortgage lending over six months to December last year.

It also raised and placed $50 million in the first tranche of a $100 million first mortgage fund, with another raising expected in the next two months, he said.

A spokesman for Mr Keating said the former PM believed it was the right time to invest into MaxCap’s platform which was well placed to take advantage of the structural opportunity as the banks were obliged to withdraw from commercial funding due to Basel III and IV guidelines.

Mr Keating has other business roles including chairman of investment banking firm Lazard .

World’s most eligible bachelor, Hugh Grosvenor no longer eligible

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It’s been 200 years since Jane Austen died but it’s both comedic and crushing that we still treat rich, white men with the same reverence as Mrs Bennett.

According to press outlets in the United Kingdom, Britain’s youngest billionaire, the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, who also happens to be Prince George’s godfather and the richest man in the world under the age of 30, is now in a relationship with a woman.

“World’s most eligible bachelor, the Duke of Westminster, is off the market,” is how the The Telegraph broke the news.

“The news will doubtless devastate a generation of Tatlerites hoping to become acquainted with the Duke and his estimated ??8.3 billion fortune (making him the third richest person in the UK and the 68th wealthiest in the world).”

“SORRY LADIES, HE’S OFF THE MARKET. Baby-faced billionaire the Duke of Westminster, 26, is no longer the UK’s most eligible bachelor,” screamed The Sun, as only the The Sun could.

Since we’ve had years to ogle Kate Middleton’s transformation from shy, middle-class professional to Duchess of Cambridge and a few months of Meghan Markle mania, now we have Harriet Tomlinson – the world’s latest Elizabeth Bennett.

Tomlinson, a 26-year-old who works in recruitment, is reportedly the new love in his life.

A source close to the Duke told The Mirror: “Hugh and Harriet are blissfully happy. They have a lot of shared interests and are both very down to earth and ??family oriented. She’s a really lovely girl and very much the love of his life.”

To recap, Grosvenor is relatively new to his new title of Duke of Westminster, following the death of his father last year. He is a man in possession of an extensive property portfolio, impressive wine cellar and an entertaining LinkedIn profile.

Up until August 2016, Grosvenor was just your average old-moneyed millennial living his best life in blissful semi-obscurity, writing blogs titled: “How to produce an espresso from your rucksack”.

Since then, not a lot has changed other than he’s inherited 100 acres across Mayfair and 200 acres of Belgravia – two of the most expensive areas in the world – as well as plots in Oxford, Cheshire, Scotland and Spain. Not to mention his father’s entire $14 billion fortune.

Unlike his good family friends, Princes William and Harry, he’s rarely seen on the social scene dad-dancing or skiing with n models. Now he and his old school friend Tomlinson are reportedly dating.

The pair attended the prestigious Ellesmere College, a co-ed boarding school that costs $16,500-a-term. While the Duke went on to study at Oxford, she got out of the sloaney bubble and attended the University of Wales in Cardiff. Tomlinson has a slew of qualifications including a teaching degree and postgraduate certification in public relations and event management.

Much to the chagrin of the media, Tomlinson – like her boyfriend – doesn’t have a huge online footprint but she is into LinkedIn, the same way Kylie Jenner is into Snapchat.

While not a lot is known about her, she must have been an exemplary student for her former teacher Julian Salisbury to make the effort to log in and write her a recommendation on the professional platform.

“Harriet is very hardworking and an intelligent person who always strives to reach high standards in everything she does,” he wrote.

The couple have reportedly “gone on a string of romantic mini-breaks”. The most recent being to California where they stayed at the exclusive Ventana resort on the Big Sur coast.

Congratulations to the happy, upwardly mobile couple on finding each other. God speed for the flurry of photographers who will now be on your tail.

Sacked coach Taylor comes out swinging after Sironen attack

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Sacked Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor has broken his silence to defend himself against an attack by Balmain legend Paul Sironen, who publicly celebrated the dumping of Taylor.
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Sironen delivered a withering send-off to Taylor on Monday night, saying “karma’s a bitch” and telling the coach not to “let the door hit you out on the way out” – still fuming that he and his son Curtis had been punted from the club.

Sironen blamed the NRL coach, but Taylor has defended himself by insisting the decision to send the club legend packing from his role with the club’s under-20s team was not his.

“I want to respond to some of Paul Sironen’s published allegations about me,” Taylor said. “I never sacked Paul Sironen and I never communicated his sacking to him. I also never made any decisions about NYC staffing at that time.

“As to Paul’s comments about what was said after he was sacked, I in fact went up to him, shook his hand and gave him my commiserations. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘It’s OK, I know it wasn’t your decision’.”

The former NSW State of Origin and Kangaroos forward was filthy over his exit from the joint-venture outfit three years ago following Smith’s review, saying he was told by Taylor and football manager Phil Moss he would no longer be required.

However Taylor rejects the allegations put forward by Sironen on Monday.

“When the great Brian Smith strategic plan was implemented and Taylor came in, I was involved in the club,” Sironen said. “I was involved numerous years as a director and with the 20s. He’s entitled to turn the club upside down but without a single word of explanation he got rid of me.

“They got me upstairs and said, ‘You’re no longer required’, without saying thanks for giving 14-15 years here as an administrator, in football operations and in several different roles.

“I’ve been asked by several blokes over the last couple of years to give comments but I’ve always, out of respect, for the club bit my tongue. Now that’s he’s gone, I’m entitled to say my piece.”

Meanwhile, Wests Tigers’ major sponsor has backed the decision to sack coach Taylor, but warned the joint-venture outfit is now at a “critical juncture” in its history.

The Tigers are at a crossroads as they search for a coach and the signatures of their four most influential players. They do so at a time when their brand has been tarnished by the Tim Simona scandal and the messy departure of club legend Robbie Farah.

However, none of those dramas prompted Lee Hagipantelis, the principal of Brydens Lawyers, to consider ending ending his company’s relationship as the Tigers’ major backer.

Hagipantelis last night described Taylor’s sacking as an “unfortunate” but necessary step to turn the club’s fortunes around.

“It was difficult, but had to be done,” Hagipantelis said. “I don’t disagree with the decision that has been taken by the CEO and the board.

“The suggestion is there were entrails indicative of difficulties that may continue to be encountered, which was a fair enough assessment.

“I have no concerns about my brand being aligned with the Tigers. I regard this as an unfortunate occurrence but one that required addressing. It has been addressed.”