Prendiville Group chairman, entrepreneur and philanthropist Peter Prendiville says from the outset he doesn’t like talking about himself.
He’d rather talk about the organisations he’s been involved with such as Notre Dame University, St John of God Healthcare, how Bentley Polo in the Valley helps Youth Focus and where the WA tourism industry is heading.
The former Chairman of Tourism WA and owner iconic Perth tourist sites such as Hotel Rottnest and Sandalford Wines was named EY WA Champion of Entrepreneur in 2017 and regularly appears in lists of WA’s wealthiest, which raises the question: How did you learn to be an entrepreneur?
It’s a fascinating story with its beginnings in family values, instilled as a child while commuting between the western suburbs attending Aquinas College and the family’s business on the Nullabor.
Prendiville and his 10 siblings sold petrol, flipped hamburgers, cleaned toilets and grew up alongside Indigenous Australians, developing a strong sense of ethics he’s carried throughout his life.
“We learnt to drive tankers and trucks when we were in our teens. We had a sheep station out there as well so you had to learn to ride motor bikes and horses,” he says.
“You were very self-contained. All my brothers and my sisters and myself – I’m the oldest of 11 – they are all independent and think their own way; but dad, I think, put a sense of ethics and community into us from a very early age.”
He says developing that aspect of entrepreneurism – that you need to make a difference so your community gets a benefit, not just yourself – was there from the get go.
Leaving Aquinas after year 12, Prendiville lasted six months studying engineering but hated it, so sought a job to ‘clear the air for a while and think about where I wanted to go’.
Securing a job on Barrow Island – 100km off the Pilbara Coast – Prendiville started as a ‘roughneck’ but worked his way up through maintenance and production to become a supervisor.
Prendiville loved his time on the oil field and his years there gave his entrepreneurial spirit a kick start, enabling him to buy several houses.
On his return, Prendiville completed a commerce degree sold some houses and bought his first roadhouse in Norseman, which he worked every day for a number of years.
The roadhouse did well, allowing Prendiville to buy more roadhouses, then cabins and hotels. He’s owned more than 45 so far and is in the process of acquiring nine more across the north of the country.
He also struck it lucky when ‘some guys he worked with on the oil rigs’ approached him when he was in his mid-20s to buy Baker International out of Australia.
“They were operating the Woodada Gas Field. So we started this company Oil Serve Australia and we ended up buying Baker International out of Australia which got us into Santos’ gas fields and other gas fields. We did that for 30 years and were one of the largest oil service groups in the country.”
In a career spanning more than four decades, the Prendiville Group is now the owner/operator of many tourist, hospitality and entertainment facilities, employing more than 1200 staff across the state.
It’s is undoubtedly a story of riches of a self-made man. But it’s more about a man who admits to surrounding himself with outstanding people and who learnt early to work hard and give back from a very young age.
And give back he has, only accepting roles to be chairman of not-for-profits and helping out charities such as Youth Focus, which assists thousands of people aged 14 to 25 each year and their families with children at risk of self-harm or who have taken their lives.
As recently as last weekend the Bentley Polo in the Valley, hosted at Prendiville’s Duncraig Stud in the Swan Valley, raised another $100,000 to help the youth charity.
Becoming a successful entrepreneur goes hand in hand with making the community a better place:
“It is important to me and it’s important to me to make sure my children are the same way,” he says.