In the words of Segenhoe Stud general manager Peter O'Brien, stud owner Kevin Maloney is "a free thinker, he never thinks inside the box" and after talking to the man himself, that is most apparent. A hard working "self-made" man who has taken many businesses from fledgling status to great heights, Maloney is creative, insightful and leaves no stone unturned in the quest to make every business the best it can possibly be.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your family life and how you became involved in racing?
A: "Well, I grew up in Sydney's western suburbs, my father Joseph (Joe) had polio as a kid you know and really had a hard life. He passed away in 1995 and really managed to fit a lot into his lifetime. He was a retired army major who went into the hotel business after his discharge. The polio took its toll on his health and he wasn't able to play the sports he really loved anymore, but he took on a role as patron of the South Sydney Rugby League Club. There he set about recruiting some of the great players seen at Souths, he really helped build up that club.
"My mother Florence (who is still alive and has just turned 97) was a great support to my father. The two of them also managed to raise eight kids as well as keep that balance between business (at the Zetland Hotel), football and also his other passion, racing. "I can remember spending time as a kid at stables, the old Victoria Park racecourse and many times sneaking into the dogs in my father's car, because back then children weren't allowed to go to the greyhounds. I definitely came from a racing and punting family."
Q: And what family do you have yourself today?
A: "My wife Lesley, who I've been married to for more than 40 years, has been such a source of support and encouragement to me in my career. We have four children together, Mark, Rachel, Suzanne and Andrew, and they are all involved in family business."
Q: You had a very diverse working life in your younger days didn't you?
A: "I was 15 when I started working at the ANZ bank as a clerk. Back then if you wanted more money you just worked more jobs, so I found myself working four at one time. As well as working at the bank I also had a job at South Sydney Junior Leagues Club as a poker machine attendant, drove a cab on Friday nights, and also worked as a bookie's clerk!
"I was with the ANZ for almost 20 years and in that time I became the youngest person ever appointed into a management role within the bank. You know I was in boarding school and my father actually pulled me out of boarding school at 14 as he said it was 'a waste of time!' so I worked my way into the role at the bank without any formal academic qualifications."
Q: You went from the ANZ to working for another well known name in the finance industry?
A: "Yes I was founding Executive Director of Elders Resources Finance back in 1986 and I also began building and growing a wide number of businesses through the family investment group, Tulla, which was formed in the early 90s."
Q: Your biggest success story there would be The MAC Services Group. Can you tell us about this company?
A: "The MAC is a mining accommodation business that began in 1996. We manufactured prefabricated buildings and constructed villages for mining communities. It became a '360 degree model' where we supplied every facet of what's required in an accommodation village.
We did our homework on where we should establish each village, acquired the land, got all the necessary council approvals and then did all the planning and management of how to put it all together. "The company went from providing 50 rooms at the start to more than 5500, and not only provided accommodation, but other facilities such as gyms and convenience stores within the village."
Q: And the 360 degree model is also how your equine assets are being managed isn't it?
A: "Segenhoe Thoroughbreds is a little different to other operations in that we breed, sell, buy and race, rather than just focus on one area. We have a manager for each part of the business, it is important that we operate from an asset management perspective.
"The horses are my assets and need to be treated as the superb athletes they are. They need the best medical care, they need to be rested when it's required, they need to be kept happy and have the same special care as if they were humans in a nursing home. When you think about it, racehorses in work are quite helpless without us, they rely on us for everything, so it is up to us to provide their needs to the best of our ability.
"I really think that in the past there mostly has been a complete inefficiency in racehorse management and training, and I would like to see my assets running as efficiently as possible. You know the reason why strappers (or 'handlers' as I like to call them) are in the racing industry? It's not because of the money, it's because of the passion, the love they have for the horses.
"In the past, sometimes they have not been really appreciated for the work they do, but I think that better care needs to be taken of our stable staff. They are entrusted with the care of my assets and I want them to be working in a happy atmosphere. I would like people who WANT to be in their jobs, because we all benefit that way.
"I would like my thoroughbred assets to be managed in a totally different way to how they traditionally have been. I'd like to see more training for the staff so that the horses can benefit from a more professional and consistent regime and achieve their best potential."
Q: What are some of the facilities you have for your equine athletes?
A: "The stud farm has such a great history behind it, and since purchasing it in 2010 we have completely focused on quality, by obtaining top class mares and employing the very best staff too. The facilities and services we provide are wide and varied, we have a spelling complex, a yearling prep area, broodmare paddocks with foaling yards to move into when they are ready to foal and we also have our own agistment property. There is also a spelling and rehab complex, and all these facilities are available to outside horses as well.
"We can do our own pre-training of the racehorses and we have them in race prep with different trainers, they are also following our 360 model as well. We've also bought a stable block at Randwick, there's going to be 20 boxes there."
Q: You also have an interest in the other two racing codes don't you?
A: "Yes, I do. I've always had trotters and greyhounds and today still have around 20 dogs in work with Maree Burton. I've got some young pups coming through as well, by Magic Sprite. I have four trotters in work at the moment, they are with Peter Morris."
Q: Now getting away from the topic of racing, I understand that with your business interests in mining, it has meant many trips to remote areas, and of course this has meant flying in and out by helicopter and light plane. One of these trips in particular was one that ended in a very bad way?
A: "Yes I've actually had a few near-misses while flying, but back in 1992 I was flying in a helicopter with my friend Wayne McCrae and we went down. We were flying out of Corella Station which is more than 30 kilometres from Cloncurry. Wayne was taking off and I just didn't think we would get up high enough. I could see the tops of the trees and knew we weren't going to make it! Wayne was thrown out and I got stuck in the cabin on my side. He was calling out 'get out before it goes up in flames!' as the fuel line was leaking. Well I managed to get out okay, but when I looked at Wayne again, I could see his legs had been hit by the rotor blades. There was blood everywhere and the legs were nearly severed. He actually said to me 'I'm gone Kevin, I've lost too much blood'.
"The drillers at the mine site had come running when they saw the helicopter go down, but they just freaked out at what they saw. We got each leg in a tourniquet and managed to get him to the nearest station and arranged for an ambulance. Wayne spent almost two years in hospital, but they did manage to save his legs. I came out of it with nothing more than a bit of a kinked neck. I really do believe that I was born under a lucky star."'
Q: With broodmares the quality of Australian stakes winners Sister Madly, Hurtle Myrtle and Mimi Lebrock, along with quality imported mares, the future of Segenhoe Thoroughbreds looks very bright.
I will leave it to General Manager Peter O'Brien for his thoughts on why he thinks Segenhoe will continue to be a major player in the racing industry here. A: (PO) "Kevin has actively been buying and breeding quality stock here at Segenhoe since day one. He bought the expensive, top class mares and bred them to the best stallions. He showed great foresight in buying the broodmares and also the young fillies he will race and then breed in the future. The focus is always on quality, with all offspring to be Magic Millions or Easter Sale yearlings. "The property has been developed into a world class farm and it's constantly growing and expanding. We now have big owners entrusting their expensive horses into our care. I can honestly say that our current crop of yearlings is the best bunch of horses I've dealt with and we have high hopes for our Magic Millions 2015 draft."