Selling hotels is a natural passion for an ex-publican

Parramatta property business owner Morris Short has taken a bold step this year and added a hospitality specialist to the sales team.

Charlie Fenton has at least 45 years of hotel experience, during which time he has been associated with hotels and motels across New South Wales. He specializes in commercial hotel transactions and has worked as an executive hotel broker with one of Australia’s largest hotel industry advisory and brokerage organisations.

“Having Charlie on the team brings a whole different side to our business,” Short said. “I respect his specialty and am happy and privileged to support him as he grows his profile and his business.”

Ironically, Fenton and Short both went to Scots College Sydney and later, unbeknownst to each other, both ended up in the hospitality industry.

Fenton started in the industry in November 1977 at the Lord Dudley Hotel, Paddington, and sold the last hotel he owned in 2017, having owned at least 10. Short was associated with the Woombye Hotel on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast from 1988 to 1999.

Since selling his last hotel, Fenton has served as general manager of a golf course, had several political cracks and a career in hotel brokerage.

He is also the author of a practical manual for hoteliers. He describes ‘The Publican’s Mate’ as ‘how to run a hotel 101’.

“I realized that I had amassed a vast bank of knowledge and knew the ropes and therefore could significantly help people in the industry,” Fenton said. “I’ve seen too many people become hotel owners without the skills they needed – or had been there so long that they overlooked the essentials.”

Fenton and Short were in contact when the latter owned a wholesale liquor business, but then lost contact when Short moved into residential real estate. Last year their paths crossed again and this time the synergies for working together were on the table.

“As a fourth-generation hotelier, I felt that as a hotel broker with RE/MAX Extra, I could offer much more than just a ‘sales agent,'” Fenton said. “As a specialist in knowledge of the game, knowing where to put your money if you want to attract a buyer, I can be of great help to a seller, for example.

“It’s a hot market for sellers if they have good trading activity and it can be a good time to buy.

“You can do a lot on a $1 million budget,” Fenton said. “It will give you a hotel in great condition, but forget the pubs with poker machines because you need a minimum of six to $500,000 each.

“About $500,000 will buy you a good country town pub BUT you have to run it like a business.”

Fenton acknowledges that running a profitable hospitality business is hard work and it frustrates him to see closures as it impacts communities.

“Look at West Wyalong. There were nine pubs and there may be three left by the end of the year. It’s very sad.

He said country pubs were proving attractive to shoppers in the city, but they should realize that their purchase should be the center of its community.

“Take the Willow Tree Hotel, for example. Willow Tree is a small rural town in New South Wales, midway between Scone and Tamworth, with a population of just 308. When Sydney businessman Charles Hanna moved to Willow Tree, the town pub was run down. He stepped in to help pay the bills just to keep the doors open, and then he bought it. Willow Tree Inn stayed open for a five-month renovation, then officially reopened in November 2011, barely recognizable from its former self. The pub was very successful, it “made” the town and other businesses opened. The Graze Restaurant at the Willow Tree Inn is famous. Now it is often difficult to find a parking space on the main street of the city.

Fenton has a vision.

“I’d like to create a ‘pub school’, where a buyer can be trained in property and, to put it bluntly, not invest the money until they know what they’re getting into.”