Manor fails to sell

By DAWN COHEN

AN OFFER of $2.75 million failed to buy Ballina Manor at auction in Sydney yesterday.

Two bidders vied for the regional icon, reaching the final offer swiftly.

While negotiations between two bidders and owner Jeff Champion are at a stand-off, he remains hopeful one of the parties will nudge closer to his reserve of $3.25 million.

The AAA-rated five-star luxury guest house, which has ac- commodated Olivia NewtonJohn, Peter Garrett and former National Party leader John Anderson, was passed in at the the Sydney Auction Centre yesterday.

Ray Larkin, senior salesman for hospitality brokers Manenti Quinlan and Associates, described Ballina Manor as one of NSW's top boutique properties.

Mr Larkin was surprised it was not sold at auction. He said there was no particular reason it did not sell.

"One bidder pulled out. We needed a third," he said.

"It just wasn't the right time yet," Mr Larkin said.

Mr Champion said he was confident the right person would eventually buy the manor at the right price.

"Ballina Manor is the jewel in my crown.

"If the wrong person bought it and it lost its five-star edge, that is what would personally disappoint me after all the work we have done."

The Tucki resident bought the Norton Street property with his wife Diana for about $360,000 in 1999.

The former Lismore mayor spent more than $2 million over 10 months restoring the building into a European-style luxury guest house.

Ballina Manor has been a family enterprise.

Jeff and Diana Champion's son Matt, then a teenager, helped with the labour of restoring the property.

"At that age he could have got into all sorts of trouble," Mr Champion said.

"Instead, Ballina Manor gave him a focus."

The 80-year-old building, originally a girls boarding school, has heritage listing with Ballina Shire Council.

"I have bought and sold lots of properties and done bigger restoration jobs but Ballina Manor is the most outstanding," the 57-year-old said.

"Selling now is not the best financial move but my two daughters, who were helping run our businesses, have moved away.

"In a few years time it will be worth around $4.5 million but at my age you have to know your limitations.

"Diana wants us to be able to go on holidays now."

Whatever happens, Ballina Manor manager Michael Fellner is hoping for business as usual.

"It is a good solid business, so I can't see why it shouldn't continue as that," Mr Fellner said.



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