Frank Lowy: Benchmark for Australian Business
Born in 1930 in what is now the Czech Republic, Lowy is arguably one of Australia’s most famous adopted sons. His wealth runs into the billions - in 2011, the business magnate’s fortune was said to have reached $1.75 billion.
Lowy has made his mark in business across the UK, New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. with a phenomenal 119 shopping centres. He opened his first mall in Blacktown, a suburb just outside of Sydney, in 1959 with business partner John Saunders.
Saunders was another Hungarian immigrant, whom he had met in 1953. Together they founded Westfield Group and by 1977 they had expanded in to the U.S. market. In 2004, they became listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.
In 1987, Saunders sold his portion of the business and Lowy was left to go it alone. Shortly afterwards, he developed malls in New Zealand before opening Westfield branches in the UK in the early 21st century.
Lowy’s incredible success is undoubtedly due to a sharp business mind but more than this, a strength of character that can be almost certainly credited to his background as a Jew in war-torn Europe.
Carving a Career from Catastrophe
His story is a remarkable rags-to-riches tale. Lowy’s early years were marred by tragedy. As a young man he moved around frequently, living in Hungary, France and Israel before he finally settled in Australia in 1952. It was in Hungary that he last sighted his father Hugo Lowy, a travelling salesman.
War had broken out across Europe and Hugo had gone to Budapest train station to buy tickets for his family to escape following the Nazi invasion. The family never saw Hugo again, and it was many years later before Frank found out the truth about his father.
Eventually, after decades of uncertainty, Frank found out in the 1990s that his father was killed at the hands of the Nazis. He had been taken from the train station to Auschwitz, where he was mercilessly beaten to death after refusing to surrender up his prayer books for burning.
Lowy remained in hiding in Hungary with his mother, estranged from his siblings - two of whom went into hiding elsewhere - and his older brother, who went to a labour camp. Living in ghettos and fighting for survival is, perhaps, one of the reasons for his extraordinary success after arriving in Australia with few possessions and no English.
A Twist of Fate
The uncertainty surrounding his father’s death was one of the hardest things about his disappearance. Lowy had no way of knowing what had happened until a chance meeting between one of Lowy’s sons and the son of another man, also called Lowy, who had been on the same fateful journey to Auschwitz. It was only then that the full horrors of Hugo’s end were revealed.
In the days of technology such as the internet with unlimited broadband and access-all-areas information, it’s hard to imagine that Frank Lowy had to wait for so long before he found out the fate of his father.
These days, people are connected across the globe at the push of a button: a ‘like’ here or a ‘share’ there. The world is suddenly such a small place with information so readily available that if something similar happened today, in the Information Age, it may not have taken so long for Lowy to find out the truth. The twist of fate that allowed this chance meeting on the other side of the world is astonishing.
But perhaps the lack of internet resources at the time was a good thing for Australian business because if he had found out sooner, perhaps Lowy would not have achieved the things he has. When he did eventually know the truth, it was not until 2009 that Lowy was able to lie some of the old ghosts to rest and revisit his father’s journey to Auschwitz. It was years later before he was able to open up and tell about his experience.
One of Life’s Givers
Lowy was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia in 2000 for his service to his retail expansion in Australia and because of his involvement with social and cultural programs.
In 2002, he was named as Australia’s leading philanthropist by Philanthropy Australia. In 2008, he was commemorated on a postage stamp along with four other leading Australian philanthropists.
These days, at 81 years old, Lowy is taking more of a back seat with the business. He has stepped down as executive chairman of Westfield Group, but still likes to keep an eye on his empire. Two of his sons, Peter and Steven, are taking over as joint chief executives while Frank remains as chairman.
The fire still remains in this extraordinary octogenarian. He still intends to keep a close eye on his business interests and is looking forward to the expansion of Westfield into a new market, with possible development in Asia.
Seo JungJin: Who is EY’s World Entrepreneur of 2021?
Seo JungJin, founder of biopharma firm Celltrion, which most recently developed an antibody treatment for COVID-19, has been named the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2021, becoming the first South Korean in the award’s 21-year history.
Regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year celebrates visionary and innovative leaders from across 60 countries who are transforming the world and fostering growth.
JungJin, who is now honoroary chairman of Celltrion Group, was up against a worthy cast of entrepreneurial competitors, taking the crown from among 45 award winners across 38 countries and territories.
Speaking during the virtual event, JungJin described his own interpretation of entrepreneurship as something that brings together “a group of people toward a common vision, embracing challenges as opportunities and committing oneself to contribute to the greater good”.
Why was JungJin crowned King Entrepreneur?
A South Korean native and now 63 years of age, JungJin founded biopharmaceutical firm Celltrion in 2003. In the nearly two decades since its founding, Celltrion has lived up to its goal of advancing health and welfare for all by developing ground-breaking drugs to treat autoimmune disease, various forms of cancer and, most recently, COVID-19.
The company, which JungJin started with just US$45,000 and five of his colleagues, has since growth to more than 2,1000 employees with sales permits in more than 90 countries and revenues exceeding US$1.69bn.
According to the panel, JungJin’s story is a shining example of the power of an unstoppable entrepreneur to change the world with the pandel moved by both his incredible story and his purpose-driven leadership, innovative mindset and entrepreneurial spirit.
Described by the chair of the EY judging panel Rosaleen Blair as “representing everything an unstoppable should be” from taking on the world’s biggest health care challenges to consistently creating long-term value for his company, JungJin’s story is one of incredible tenacity and perseverance that the judging panel felt most represented the entrepreneurial spirit.
“He’s taken breathtaking risks, both personal and professional, to found Celltrion and grow it into one of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies,” says Stasia Mitchell, EY Global Entrepreneurship Leader. “His passion for creating affordable, life-saving health care and flair for tackling global problems has led to many treatments that have helped millions of people worldwide and was especially evident this past year through the creation of a COVID-19 antibody treatment.”
How did JungJin get there?
JungJin's entrepreneurial journey started at an early age when he worked as a taxi driver to get himself through Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. After studying industrial engineering, he rose through the ranks of Daewoo Motor Co. before losing his job amid the carmaker’s financial troubles following the 1997 Asian economic crisis.
Following this, JungJin started collaborating with colleagues to explore business opportunities in different industries, though none delivered lasting success. The turning point came after he attended a talk hosted by renowned scholars, which inspired him to focus on the biopharmaceutical sector.
And so he founded Celltrion with just US$45,000 of his savings. The launch of Remsima, credited with being the world's first antibody biosimilar, quickly moved Celltrion up the ranks of the country's fairly underdeveloped pharmaceutical sector. Celltrion followed this success with the launch of drugs for breast cancer and lymphoma that today are being used worldwide.
With ambitions to be the world’s first in different areas, Celltrion has pioneered numerous uncharted areas to great success over the past two decades, most recently responding to the global pandemic by successfully developing an antibody treatment for COVID-19 and working to ensure a timely supply of the safe and effective treatment.
“When I first started, my vision was to help patients gain access to safe, effective and affordable medicines and thereby enhance the quality of people’s lives,” explains JungJin. “The success of Celltrion has enabled me to expand on this while finding new ways to fuel my entrepreneurial drive.”