September 21st 2009
UPDATE: September 23, 2009. For an update on this story, please click here.
by Neil Jenman.
Benjamin Wayne Gough was born in 1979. Today, at the age of 30, he is the boss [Chief Executive Officer] of Harcourts Bundaberg.
Harcourts is a real estate franchise group which claims that today's consumers value "the fundamentals of honesty and integrity" in real estate agents.
Ben Gough is a big guy. He drives a big black car - one of those humongous HSVs (with the rego number HSV4ME) - and he has a big reputation. Or so he wants us all to believe.
No one has a bigger opinion of big Ben Gough than Ben Gough himself. Among his many self-given accolades, Ben Gough claims that he is the "Number one Auction Salesperson for Queensland."
The auction was a dud. Despite a realistic reserve price of just $290,000 Ben Gough and the sales team at Harcourts Bundaberg couldn't find a buyer. Too bad, the Batchelors lost their advertising expenses.
A few weeks later - into the new year of 2009 - the Batchelors became desperate to sell.
A salesman from Harcourts Bundaberg, Daniel Anderson, contacted Rycki and Kylie Batchelor and said he "had a solution to their problem of selling". Ben Gough would buy their property for the "fair price" of $252,000. Because Ben was the former auctioneer of their home but now the current buyer of their home, the agency wouldn't charge commission. Very generous of them.
The Batchelors - who lived more than 600 kilometres away in Mackay - believed that Ben Gough's offer of $252,000 was "the best they were going to get." They agreed to sell to Ben Gough.
The sale took place on February 18, 2009.
But what Rycki and Kylie Batchelor didn't know was that, on the same day they got $252,000 for selling their home to Ben Gough, the home was on-sold to another buyer for $297,000.
Not bad for a day's work, Ben.
But, hey, that's not nearly as good as another big deal Big Ben did for himself.
Back in 2003, when he was just 24, Ben wrote a letter to a middle-aged single lady who owned a beach house near Bargara. He said he was interested in buying her property.
According to the lady, Ben Gough said he could "only borrow $300,000 from the bank" and he wanted the home to live in for himself.
The lady refused to sell at such a low price. Ben Gough then increased his offer to $325,000. He also said he would not charge any commission. The lady finally agreed to sell to "the nice young man". A bit over six months later, big Ben Gough re-sold the lady's home for $495,000. A big profit of $170,000.
Big profits for a big bloke who likes to be known as "The Boss".
Big Ben Gough has a reputation for something other than real estate. He's a kick boxer who fights under the name "The Boss".
Big Ben has allegedly been in a few scrapes in his life, both in and out of the kick-boxing ring. In 2007, a Bundaberg Court dismissed a serious assault case against him.
Yes, "bennydeboss" (as he once called himself on an email account) has something of a reputation around Bundaberg. He scares a lot of people.
Everything's big about big Ben Gough.
Except when it comes to discussing his business deals in public. Then he turns into a weasel.
When confronted last week, he used a simple tactic. He lied.
Ben Gough claimed that, at the time he bought the Batchelors' home (and ripped them off for $45,000), he was not the owner of Harcourts Bundaberg. [He tried the old "take off my agent hat" trick].
Gough claimed that he only became the owner of Harcourts Bundaberg in April 2009. But, according to company searches and a spokesperson for Harcourts in Queensland, Gough became the owner of Harcourts Bundaberg on February 3, 2009, just two weeks before he ripped off the Batchelor family.
Big Ben Gough, big-time kick boxer, big-time auctioneer and big-time rip-off merchant.
FOOTNOTE: When asked for a comment about one of his franchisees, Harcourts CEO Aaron Brooks replied "Happy to give comment. No problem whatsoever. Before we talk will you mind giving me details of the franchisee you will be writing about?"
Once he learned the name of his rogue franchisee, however, Brooks reneged on his promise.
Despite repeated requests for an official comment, Aaron Brooks laid low. Word is that he and Benny the Boss go back a fair way together. Or perhaps, like a lot of people in Queensland, Aaron Brooks is scared of the big kick boxer.
Whatever his reason for reneging on his promise to comment, Aaron Brooks, as the CEO of Harcourts in Queensland, has one obligation he cannot shirk. A duty to Harcourts' customers such as Rycki and Kylie Batchelor.
You see, Harcourts talks about "the fundamentals of honesty and integrity". Well, the true test of honesty and integrity comes when one of your agents does something dishonest and completely lacking in integrity.
Aaron Brooks, if Ben Gough won't do it, then Harcourts Head Office should repay the Batchelor family the $45,000 that was virtually stolen from them. And you should then kick Ben Gough the kick boxer out of your network.
For the sake of the honest and hard-working agents in your network, don't let Ben Gough's actions smear the name of Harcouts. Get rid of him.
But that would take real courage.
Mr Aaron Brooks, the public is now watching to see what you do (or don't do).