Keiran Speed is what you’d call old school. Would never swear in front of a lady. He’ll tell you to your face what a place is worth, and he’d be right. Never raises his voice or talks himself up. Others will happily do that for him.
Legend, or even icon, is how R&W chief auctioneer Peter Baldwin describes him, and that’s no overstatement of a man who’s a master of understatement. Baldwin recalls auctions in rooms heaving with people, where Keiran would wryly note, “should have two bidders”.
Claiming the Director’s Trophy at this year’s R&W Awards, Keiran Speed, a director of R&W Bondi Junction and Bondi Beach, is the only person still with the group today who worked at its original head office at 92 Pitt Street in the city, when it was still simply Richardson & Wrench Limited.
But this legend’s history is still being written. Spend an early morning at Bondi Beach and you’ll find him in the gym at 5 and in the surf by 6. A life member of the Bondi Surf Club, he’s won too many gold medals to count and is still collecting them with recent honours in the over-70 1km beach run at state and national titles.
He’s a life member of Easts Rugby Club, too, where he played in the first grade team that won the 1969 grand final – the last time Easts claimed bragging rights.
Born and bred in Bondi, Keiran first worked for R&W briefly back in 1969. They’d not long ago ripped out the Bondi Tram and the eastern suburbs rail line hadn’t yet been built, so his dad would drop him at the city office early each morning.
In the ’70s he worked in industrial real estate with R&W but had his eye on a bigger prize closer to home turf (or should that be surf). Forming a partnership with his life-long Bondi surf club mate John Douglass, he joined the Shenstone & Charles real estate agency in 1979, later to become R&W Bondi Junction.
Keiran ran the property management division but he and his partners, John Douglass, Malcolm Norburn, and later Chris Herbert, Niall Chang and Andre Frack were acquiring well-positioned properties. Some they held, others were sold when the time was right, and many they developed into the high-rise residential buildings that dominate Bondi Junction today.
The reputation for integrity that R&W holds today and its standing as the agency that dominated prestige sales in the eastern suburbs, stems from the Bondi Junction agency that Keiran helped to establish, at the same time Michael Dunn and Ron Pillinger were exerting supremacy in Double Bay.
Perhaps drawing on his sporting experience, Keiran was a believer in the power of mentoring and the need to pass the ball on and play like a team if you wanted to win the game.
R&W Elizabeth Bay/Potts Point co-founder Greg McKinley began his career with Keiran as a letting clerk, and once he’d earned his stripes was entrusted as the licensee of a new office in the heart of the Cross.
He was joined by Andrew Hoggett whose mum Dianne worked alongside Keiran’s wife Patty in the Bondi Junction office, handling admin, typing and ledgers.
Following Keiran’s example, Greg and Andrew later backed one of their own agents, Mark Dawes, to set up the Alexandria/Waterloo office.
In 2003, he expanded Bondi Junction’s reach, opening a new office within a stone’s throw of his spiritual home, Bondi Beach. Again, putting his faith in young blood, he offered the opportunity to own a piece of the action to a youngster in the Elizabeth Bay office, Jason Taylor.
Keiran generates a ton of business and remains the go-to man for a long list of eastern suburbs clients but you won’t see his name attached to many listings and that, says Baldwin, is a mark of the man.
“His attitude is, give the young guys a go, let’s build their careers,” says Baldwin, one of only two in the group whose R&W working days hark back to a time when it was simply R&W Ltd.
“He’s been a father figure, a kind of benevolent uncle, to a lot of these agents, who are now amongst the most successful in the network. He’s been their spiritual guide and career guide, passing down what he’s learned and watching them run with it.
“The values that Keiran has worked and lived by all his life, loyalty and integrity, don’t stop with him.
“They’re alive and present in all the people whose lives he’s touched. It’s bigger than business or real estate. It’s family.”
Article submitted by Jenny Wills of Place Media.