Block Arcade owner dies

Renowned property investor John Kearney, QC, the owner of the iconic Block Arcade, has died in Queensland, aged 90.

Renowned property investor John Kearney, QC, the owner of the iconic Block Arcade, has died in Queensland, aged 90.

Investment companies owned by Mr Kearney and his wife, Alison, control a number of Collins Street properties, including the Louis Vuitton store on the corner of Collins and Russell streets and buildings adjoining the Block Arcade.

The portfolio of at least six properties is understood to be worth up to $200 million, and was amassed between 1994 and 2007 for an initial outlay of $42 million.

Mr and Mrs Kearney first purchased the Block in 1993 when it was put to auction by mortgagee-in-possession Westpac, paying $7.85 million. In the early 2000s, they added other buildings on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth streets; and in 2007 they paid $16.21 million for the four-storey building that now houses Louis Vuitton.

Life members of the National Trust, the Kearneys showed particular interest in Melbourne's heritage buildings and declared the restoration of the Block Arcade as one of their greatest achievements.

Mr Kearney wrote: "If I were to walk with you along Collins Street, Melbourne's most celebrated street, I could show you several properties that we own ... the princess of our buildings and indeed of Melbourne is the Block Arcade, a magnificent relic of the city's earliest days that graces much of a city block. We bought it in 1994 from a bank which had foreclosed on its near-bankrupt owner. At the time its future was bleak.

"There are many things that Alison and I have done in our 60 years together of which we are proud. Our restoration of the Block Arcade to its former splendour as one of the outstanding shopping places in the world ranks high among them."

It is understood the family have no immediate plans for the property portfolio.

Before Mr Kearney invested in property, he was a prominent solicitor and barrister.

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