Mark Maloney at Sumo-Salad’s first Green Label store in Sydney’s MLC Centre. 

Picture: Renee Nowytarger.

Source: News Corp Australia 

Mark Maloney knows what it is like to be part of a family that made more than $300 million overnight. But he is also living proof of the old adage: money doesn’t buy happiness. “You think all problems are solved. Pay the mortgage off. Buy a holiday house. Take six months off. We took three months off, travelled to France. After seven nights I was like ‘F…!’ I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t have a purpose,” he tells The Weekend Australian. Maloney is talking about the heady days 4½ years ago when his family reaped about $340m from the sale of its stake in listed mining services firm MAC Services Group to US oilfield services company Oil States International. It was one of the deals of the decade. “The MAC”, as it was known, was founded 25 years ago by ­Maloney’s father, Kevin, to provide tailored accommodation to the mining industry. It floated on the ASX in April 2007 and the mining boom drove its shares to stunning heights. History has proven that Kevin cashed out at the perfect time, soared on to the BRWRich List and has stayed there ever since (last year he was worth $440m). His oldest son, a former investment banker at JPMorgan in London before he returned to Australia in 2006 to run The MAC, thought he was set for life the day millions poured into his bank account. But the reality proved he was anything but. “I have been there — part of a family that made more money than you ever imagined. It was not something we planned. We never thought it would happen. But I can tell you, it doesn’t bring ultimate happiness. Being driven by money doesn’t work. It works for a while but ultimately you end up a very unhappy person,” ­Mark Maloney says. The family subsequently lost tens of millions on an investment in West Australian gold producer Norseman Gold, which went into receivership last year. Earlier in the year a worker was killed at one of its mines. Shares of the family’s Canadian-listed THEMAC Resources Group, which has a copper project in the US, also came under pressure. The group is run by Maloney’s younger brother ­Andrew and chaired by Kevin. And Maloney himself went through a period of savage soul searching. Without an operational job and feeling lost, he battled depression and a near nervous breakdown. Then came a divorce from his wife of nine years. They have two daughters (whom he calls the most fulfilling part of his life). Yet Maloney refuses to see wealth as a curse. “At the time, going through those different things, it was bloody tough. I look back now and think, ‘What a wonderful opportunity to evolve’,” he says. That evolution spawned a dream to take his life in a completely new direction, which was crystallised in December 2012. As chief executive of the family’s private investment company, the Tulla Group, he engineered the Maloneys to taking a controlling stake in healthy fast food group SumoSalad. They partnered with Luke Baylis, who set up Sumo in 2003 with James Miller and had overseen the expansion from its base in Sydney to 100 stores around the country. The deal provided the catalyst for Maloney to strike out on his own and get his life back on track. While he stayed close to his father and remained a director of Tulla (which also owns the Segenhoe Group, one of Australia’s leading thoroughbred horse studs and racing operations), in January 2013 Maloney set up his own private investment company called Intrepic. Intrepic invests in businesses that are “doing good” with a purpose greater than themselves and partners with what he calls “soulpreneurs”. In addition to Sumo it has built a portfolio of wellbeing and lifestyle brands including action sport media group Garage Entertainment, digital travel company Luxe City Guides and education and training start-up Big A-ha. And Sumo is now set to go through its biggest ever expansion after Intrepic recently took 100 per cent control of the chain from the Maloney family and Maloney assumed the role of Sumo’s executive chairman. “Being involved in investment banking and mining for so long, we are now involved in a business with real meaning and real purpose. Not to put those sectors down. But being somewhere where there is more than just money and having a real impact upon people’s lives,” he says. “They say the ultimate purpose of life is to evolve and serve others. Through this we have that opportunity. And not being just about making money.” Maloney says the seeds of his transformation were planted during his two years as chief executive of The MAC after he took the reins from his father in November 2008. For the previous 18 months he had been the company’s chief operating officer. “You leave university (today he is an advisory board member of Sydney’s UTS Business School after completing a business degree with honours in 1993), you work hard, you get into investment banking and work in that high energy, ego-driven environment. It was all about doing big deals. Making big money. Ridiculous ­bonuses. It just becomes the norm,” he says. “Then I became CEO of The MAC. Going into The MAC was a great learning curve and a great grounding. Going from the imaginary, Disneyland world of investment banking into a real company with real people working at the coal face.” Sumo, which turns over around $90m from 120 stores nationwide, is now producing healthy breakfasts, as well as soups and hot bowls. The philosophy of the brand has been moving away from just being salads to healthy fast foods. It is moving out of shopping centres and into high street locations in inner-city suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, offering dinner menus for the first time. The first new concept dinner store is the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills. In late March Sumo also launched its first Green Label store in Sydney’s MLC Centre and joined forces with Red Rooster to sell custom-designed salads in 350 stores across the country. “We are looking at other partnerships with airlines and service stations. There are a whole lot of options we can take the brand to. We have a couple close to execution. They are not public yet. Some are significant partnerships,” he says. The growth ambition of adding 20 stores per year in Australia is set to be lifted aggressively. “Now I feel comfortable as Luke does to put the foot down on the accelerator on growth,” Maloney says. A float remains an option. In the wake of the commodity price slump, Maloney still has a valuable perspective on the resources sector from his time with The MAC and as an ongoing director of Tulla, which also owns Tulla Drilling, that works with coal resource and mining companies to discover and define coal reserves. He believes the road ahead for resources is far from doomsday. “But I certainly can’t see us getting back to the heyday of where we were,” he said. “Logically it is not sustainable. Time and time again, right through history, we get caught in these cycles and people extrapolate them that they can last forever. They don’t,” he says. Which is one of the prime reasons he has pursued opportunities in the services sector and why Tulla has diversified into venture capital with a focus on IT-related sectors. It also boasts a big property portfolio. “Services and lifestyle is an opportunity for Australia.” But most importantly for the heart-on-sleeve Maloney, his new life has put the troubles of the past in perspective. As he told an audience at UTS during an emotional speech earlier this year, he is now “bouncing out of bed everyday”. “I am now doing something in a space working with people and making a contribution well beyond what I was doing before. I would never have got to that space without going through what I have. Money is always a gift. It is whether you use it appropriately or not,” he says. The constant by his side throughout the ups and downs has been his father, the man who he watched nearly go bankrupt several times and who he says has given him “the greatest MBA for free, in business and in life”. “The great lesson I learnt from Kevin is that you will lose money, things will go wrong. They will go wrong more than they go right. As long as what goes right goes really right,” he says. “Kevin probably has about 50 different ventures. But only three or four where it is really all at. The MAC was that massive success. It killed it. It is about learning that perfectionism doesn’t work. You have to learn how to take a loss. Things will go wrong.”

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