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AU The flamboyant owner is finding it a bit harder to be a Daydream believer

Property Here - Monday, April 15, 2013

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COLOURFUL Queensland entrepreneur Vaughan Bullivant is facing his biggest challenge.

The 65-year-old businessman defeated cancer of the tongue a few years back but the disease has returned and he is currently undergoing treatment.

At the same time he is under growing financial pressure to sell both his Daydream Island retreat and his Redcliffe home because of a general economic downturn, fall in tourism numbers and bleak business conditions.

"I nearly kicked the bucket," Bullivant says about his initial diagnosis of cancer.

"I had cancer of the tongue and went to Germany for treatment but there were complications and I nearly died three times."

He recovered but still wasn't feeling 100 per cent and found himself involved in about five car accidents late last year although fortunately no one was injured in each case.

"I sideswiped a bus and had a few other accidents but luckily no one was hurt," he recalled.

A visit to a local GP and consequent MRI revealed he had "a tumour in my brain the size of a rat".

An operation removed the tumour and Bullivant will have chemotherapy which he hopes will finally rid his body of the cancer.

He is also battling increasing financial pressures and is again trying to sell his beloved Daydream Island and has placed his large resort-style home at Redcliffe on the market.

"I have spent a lot of time and money on Daydream but now I need someone who can take it to another stage in the future and I do not have the finance to do it," Bullivant said.

Bullivant has a financial and emotional attachment to Daydream. He acquired the island in 2000 but 35 years earlier, the world-class water skier was employed there as the ski instructor at a time when staff lived in basic conditions and the dormitories had no glass in the windows.

Bullivant started taking an interest in naturopathy and nutrition and in 1975 founded Bullivant's natural health products company which at its peak was supplying more than 2000 health shops and turning over $70 million a year.

He sold the business to Faulding Pharmaceuticals for a rumoured $135 million and, with the late Keith Williams, snapped up Daydream Island from some directors of Village Roadshow for about $12.5 million.

Back then things were good.

Bullivant embarked on a multimillion-dollar spending spree, picking up tasteful "his and hers" mansions at Redcliffe.

He also spent $3 million buying penthouses and units off the plan at Mooloolaba's Sirocco resort following a $2.5 million spree on five penthouse suites at the new Mooloolaba Outrigger International Hotel.

He later embarked on a $20 million upgrade of Daydream, putting in a state of the art day spa long before spas were fashionable.

He then bought out Williams.

It's estimated his total spend on Daydream has been about $70 million.

The island has experienced many ups and downs along the way, a victim of the general battles faced by resorts which require everything to be shipped in and are often at the whim of the direction of the Australian dollar.

In the middle of 2002 for instance, North Queensland resorts emerged as the worst investments of the previous few years and things haven't got much better since, especially when you throw in a few cyclones and the general tourism downturn.

The history of our islands in paradise is woeful and Bullivant has experienced the lows along with some overdue highs.

The Whitsundays suffered hugely from the Ansett collapse and more recently the GFC and cyclones.

And further back, TAA sold out of Dunk, Lizard, Brampton, Bedara and Keppel islands for a huge loss in the early '90s.

The late Sir Peter Abeles, one time TNT chairman and former Ansett boss, once confided to Keith Williams, who was then the Hamilton Island developer, that the airline had invested a whopping $235 million in rival resort Hayman Island.

But instead of making a killing, Ansett later sold Hayman for about $80 million.

Bullivant today admits "the market is shocking".

He doesn't regret buying Daydream but concedes the fact that he will lose money on any sale.

"The replacement cost (of Daydream) back in 2010 was $154 million," he said.

"Offers today would make you cry. It is like sharks swimming around waiting to pick up a bargain and that is a problem because I know what the right person could do with it."

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