Meaty deal snaps up abattoir and feedlot
By MADELEINE LOGAN
THE call of "Eureka" transformed geologist Dudley Leitch into a business success from the gold mines of Mexico to the butcher shops of Brisbane and now Killarney Abattoir and Condamine River Meats.
After finding "big-time gold" in Victoria, he listed the Perseverance Company on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1987, making his fortune as its shares rocketed from 25c to $13 in four months.
On Monday, he further expanded his influence, announcing his purchase of Roly Hancock's Killarney Abattoir and Joan and Bruce Fanning's Condamine River Meats, including the property Berrima and its 5000-head feedlot.
Unbeknownst to both sellers, the two transactions were carried out at the same time in the same solicitor's office.
All staff at both businesses will keep their jobs, with Rob Doro employed to act as Mr Leitch's contact in the area.
Roly's sons Rohan and Tony will stay in their roles, with Hec appointed general manager of the operation.
The Fannings will retain some responsibility in Condamine River Meats and ownership of the home at Berrima.
Mr Leitch is the managing director of Kings Minerals, a gold and silver exploration company which has projects in Mexico, a country he visits three times a year which is about to build a new plant. He is also the second-largest shareholder in Bolnisi Gold, the biggest silver company in the world.
Based with his wife in McGregor in Brisbane, his rural holdings include the Pittsworth abattoir and land at Beaudesert, Mitchell, Wheatvale, Millmerran and the Gore traprock country. Taking into account his four Brisbane butcher shops, run by his daughter, Mr Leitch's new purchases ensure he can produce meat from pasture to plate.
Needless to say, he only sleeps three hours a night, from 9.30pm to 12.30am. Growing up in Emerald, he developed a love of the land and now unwinds by driving a tractor.
Killarney Abattoir was never advertised for sale, but owner Roly Hancock's desire to take a backwards step coincided with Mr Leitch's desire to take a forward one.
"There is room to increase throughput by re-organising the layout of the boning room and value add by utilising the full capacity," Mr Leitch said.
"The wholesaling business will continue and we'll look at export in the future.
"The world is hungry for meat, the middle classes in Asia will begin to demand more than rice and a smell of chicken, and they'll want lamb and beef from Australia."
The abattoir will also capitalise on two of its by-products which have more than doubled in value recently.
"Tallow, which is a base for soap and cosmetics and a source in bio-diesel has increased in price from $300/ton to $1000/ton while meatmeal is replacing grain in the diets of pigs and chooks and has doubled in price in the last three years," Mr Leitch said.
"New machinery will be installed that will ensure we can retain more tallow."
Both of Mr Leitch's newest purchases are iconic success stories in their own right. The Fannings started their company in 1986, wholesaling 12 cattle a week. It now has 13 employees and sells 300 cattle, 140 pigs and 1000 sheep and lambs a week.
Roly Hancock opened the modern Killarney Abattoir on January 17, 1976 with a crew of 15 men. Thirty-two years later, it employs 170 staff and has the capacity to process 400 cattle, 100 pigs and 1100 sheep and lambs daily.
"Half of the staff I'm related to and the other half I grew up with," Hec said. "We didn't want to sell to just anyone but we feel Dudley is genuine, caring and recognises the value of our workers and we are confident he will look after our family at the abattoir."
All 170 of them.