A multi-millionaire property mogul has broken his silence about the fallout that came after he made “damaging” and “out-of-touch” comments claiming 275,000 Aussies should lose their jobs to lower “arrogance” among entitled workers.
Tim Gurner is one of Australia’s richest men and built a large portion of his estimated $929 million wealth through property development, but that didn’t stop him blasting “lazy” tradies and calling for more “pain in the economy” in September.
The Melbourne-based CEO apologised in a written statement the day after a media firestorm circled the globe. But has only just addressed the damage his statements made, the “tough period” that followed and the seven minutes silently staring into the eyes of a “beautiful man” that led to his “rebirth”.
Here's what he said.
Do you have a story to tell? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Gurner said he thought the hour-long interview had gone “really well” until he was taken off guard by the final question about how to fix productivity in Australia, and a statement he made “about one specific market” got taken “more broadly, obviously, which was unfortunate”.
“I said something really stupid and I really regretted it and, looking back now, I don't know how it happened at that moment. We all make mistakes and I made a big mistake,” he said in a candid chat at this week's Forbes Business Summit.
‘The most upsetting thing’: Understanding the hurt
In the first week that followed, Gurner said he focused on the people around him that he had hurt.
“My family, my team, the tradies on site … I had a lot of people going through financial strain themselves, and families who lost jobs that reached out directly to me and it was a really confronting, eye-opening experience.”
Sleepless nights and vicious online trolls
Gurner - who said sleep was one of the most important aspects of his approach to wellness - was facing online backlash that descended into death threats. He was asked, “How do you sleep at night when you feel like the whole world is coming after you?”
The answer? Not well.
“The online social trolling is pretty intense nowadays and it’s stuff you try not to read but it's very challenging. There wasn’t a hell of a lot of sleep. But I brought it on myself. I deserved it.”
‘Strange but beautiful rebirth’ through 7-minute stare and retreat breathwork
After apologising, the routine-driven CEO went to Saint Haven, the luxury wellness clinic he launched in Melbourne, which has a $23,000 annual membership and five-stage interview process to be accepted. He praised the work of his breathwork guru, Eugene Koning.
He lay in a meditation cave for about an hour where he went through an “existential" and “very weird” experience where the Melbourne dad felt like he “left his body”.
“The first seven minutes was him just sitting me down, cross-legged, staring at me, saying nothing," Gurner said.
"Literally just staring me in the eye. It was the most bizarre experience. He’s this big Kiwi, incredibly beautiful human who’s got this aura. [It was] a bit of a strange journey to be honest but a beautiful one at that.”
He felt “a lot lighter” and described this as the “start of a rebirth to get back to some kind of normality”.
After that, it was back to the normal routine for Gurner, whose company Gurner Group says its development and management portfolio is worth more than $9.5 billion.
What did he say?
These are the “offensive” and regrettable comments Gurner made at the Australian Financial Review’s Property Summit.
“We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around.”
“We need to see pain in the economy. There’s been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them as opposed to the other way around. We’ve got to kill that attitude and that has to come through hurting the economy.”
“We need to see unemployment rise, unemployment has to jump 40, 50 per cent.” (That’s about 275,000 Australians being sacrificed for his vision for the economy)
"People decided they didn't really want to work so much through Covid and that has had a massive issue on productivity.”
"Tradies have definitely pulled back on productivity. They have been paid a lot to do not too much in the last few years, and we need to see that change."
APOLOGY: “My comments were deeply insensitive to employees, tradies and families across Australia who are affected by these cost-of-living pressures and job losses.”