Queen’s Birthday Honours: Former Hoyts boss Peter Ivany still likes giving back

Former Hoyts boss Peter Ivany, AM, has received an AO for distinguished service to the community as a supporter of sporting, arts, film, not-for-profit and natural science organisations.

While still well known for his commercial exploits, he is hopeful that other business people will follow the giving path.

Ivany says that the younger generation have an expectation that they will give back to the community, and make a contribution, beyond business and he says that at 67 he is just making a start, even after more than two decades in philanthropy.

He has been guided by the need to create and says he has got more out of being involved in a range of organisations than he has given.

Ivany’s life gravitated towards the arts after his time at a kibbutz in Israel, before he undertook an MBA.

He is perhaps best known for his cinematic endeavours and still sees about 100 movies a year, with many due to his involvement in film festivals.

Since leaving Hoyts at 43 he has matched his achievements in business with passionate involvement in the not-for-profit sector.
He has drawn on the energy he used in taking Hoyts from a small cinema chain in Australia to a global business with more than 2000 theatres in 12 countries.

“It wasn’t about money; it was about creating jobs and other opportunities,” he says.

After the sale of Hoyts in 1999, the entrepreneur built his own diversified investment business, Ivany Investment.

It holds investments across property, private equity, technology, bonds and shares, start-ups, and company turnarounds, both in Australia and overseas.

Investments have ranged from IMAX to Sydney Zoo and Allied Credit, and Ivany has previously been involved with Video Ezy, Harris Scarfe and TAHL.

He says he tried getting a government role after Hoyts and, although that did not at first succeed, he was undeterred, and pursued a wide range of philanthropic endeavours.

His passions in the community, football and arts have come to the fore. He was a member of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust and serves as chairman of the NIDA Foundation Trust and Community Chair of the Sydney Swans Foundation.

Given his passion for cinema it is only natural that he has chaired the advisory council for the Sydney Film Festival since 2006.

He is also on the board of NIDA and an honorary life governor for the Jewish Communal Appeal.

He previously chaired the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and the Jewish International Film Foundation of Australia, and has contributed to the boards of the MCA, the president’s council of the Art Gallery NSW, and was a founding member of Events NSW, now Destination NSW.

In 2007, Ivany was appointed a member of the Order of Australia for service to the community through a range of fundraising, Jewish, arts, sporting organisations and business education.





Ben Wilmot has been The Australian’s commercial property editor since 2013. He was previously a property journalist with the Australian Financial Review.


Michael Jacobsen Interviews Peter Ivany for his book – Entrepreneurs, Mavericks and Empire Builders – Foreword by Peter Ivany


Thank you

To my publisher Michael Wilkinson for his ongoing support, and also to his team, including Jess Lomas.

To Peter Ivany AM for being so actively and passionately involved and writing the foreword .

To Professor Roy Green of UTS for his assistance and advice.

And finally, to all of the wonderful people who agreed to be interviewed, and who opened their minds, hearts and diaries to be part of this book. Some were friends, some friends of friends, and some people whom I didn’t know before I interviewed them. What they all had in common was a propensity to give of themselves, share their life and serve others.



‘Australia is a lucky country’, journalist Donald Horne famously and somewhat facetiously wrote about Australia in 1964.

This quote has been taken to mean different things over the years. What is clear however, is in the five decades since it was made, Australia has continued its ‘lucky’ winning streak.

The only G20 economy not to have had a post Global Financial Crisis recession (in fact we have not had a recession since 1991); a long-term real estate boom and a structural advantage of being the repository for natural resources for which until recently China had a seemingly insatiable appetite. In recent times we have enjoyed low unemployment and stable inflation with the economy driven by a booming mining industry and a protected banking sector.

Whilst the ASX200 has produced solid occasional returns, it sits at the same level as it did in 2007. We are the third richest country on earth due to our natural resources in ratio with our population and size.

In addition, we are blessed with a vast county of natural beauty and a multi-cultural society far from many of the world’s problems.

Yet despite this, the country is not without its vulnerabilities. As the mining boom slowed over the recent past, a so-called two-tier economy became apparent, exposing a chasm between the economic statistics supported by the mining prosperity and ‘the rest’.  Our GDP growth has been flat for the past few years with late 2018 numbers presenting a sharp slowdown credited to a reduction in private consumption and in non-residential construction. Our top ten exports are still resources and agricultural products and represent over 70% of our exports. Australia has over two million small businesses (many of which are entrepreneurs), yet the past year has seen a failure rate at its highest in recent history.

Following the demise of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s National Innovation Agenda, states have stepped in to fill the void but with little national coordination.

Entrepreneurialism and innovation are inextricably linked. Innovation is the paradigm, and it is one that Australia must pursue at political, corporate and small business level if it is to remain a leading, successful and relevant nation and economy in the 21st century.

Regardless of when you read this book and the varying economics statistics that may be present at the time, Australia’s economy needs structural change driven by the paradigm shift I espoused earlier.

We cannot rely on natural resources, on booming property prices or on our advantageous position in the high-growth Asian region. We cannot rely on our beauty or our peaceful location. We cannot be – as Donald Horne famously warned we would be – ‘taken by surprise’.

What we need is a cultural change combined with supportive macro­-economic policy that embraces not just professional services, an often talked about economic sector, but innovation. We do this through not only talking the talk of innovation but walking the walk. Australia can become a digital and technological hub with the local workforce coupled with the skilled migration we benefit from. But when I say ‘become’, I mean create.

With this as a vision supported by policy, the private sector must lead the way to deliver and execute on this and make it a reality.

Australians can achieve success disproportionate to our size. We have, for example, positioned ourselves as a global film hub and a leading nation in this sector. The world-leading institution that is the Australian Film Television and Radio School, set up by Prime Minister John Gorton and which I chaired, is a case study worth examining and an example of politics, business and education combining to define and create the future of film.

There is every reason it can do the same in technology, which is the driver of current and future innovation.

Innovation is at its most noticeable in the form of its ‘cousin’ – entrepreneurialism, which is where innovation is commercialised for national, societal, and private benefit. This brings a number of benefits to society which are outlined by Michael and the leading innovators he has interviewed in this book.

Entrepreneurship is an act of value creation which results in businesses that create employment and play an influential role in economic growth, improvement in living standards, regional development, export growth, community development, improved branding of a country and perhaps most importantly the creation of a smarter country with the implementation of innovations.

Entrepreneurship can also create heroes. We all know of Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. All too often in Australia we celebrate sporting success but denigrate business success, or we associate entrepreneurialism with Christopher Skase and Alan Bond. We see failures, high-profile collapses such as Ansett and Dick Smith; we observe the banking Royal Commission and lose heart at the future of business altogether.

All nations have their challenges in business. Yet many of them embrace entrepreneurialism.

Well-known demographer Bernard Salt argues that ‘half of the ten biggest businesses in America were formed in a single generation.’ Admittedly America gave us Enron, Lehman Brothers and Kodak, but it also gifted us Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon – the biggest companies in the world today, all led or started in the past 30 years by entrepreneurs.

The USA, Israel and China are among the world’s most robust and resilient economies and also among the most entrepreneurial. Australia is far behind. Israel has the highest number of start-ups, per capita, in the world.

Australia is academically strong and education is one of our strongest export areas and international competitive advantages.

Education comes in many forms and one of the greatest is learning from others.

If Australia seeks to become an innovation leader it needs to create centres of excellence and to do so we should be inviting world leaders in innovation, both homegrown and global figures, to set up shop on our shores.

A hub lead by Elon Musk; a centre lead by Steve Wozniak; an Apple innovation centre; and a Google deep mind artificial intelligence centre. These parties and companies represent the point where innovation and entrepreneurialism meet. This position of innovation and business can be explosive for an economy.

Initiatives such as these would cut right through red tape with the right money, people and support, and deliver innovation to us that would propel Australia into the trajectory of Singapore and Israel. It is time to deliver ‘super innovation’ to this great nation and supporting entrepreneurialism is an immediate way to propel this concept.

A key barometer of the success of an entrepreneurial economy is the ratio of venture capital and private equity to GDP.  AVCAL reports that in this metric Australia consistently ranks below both the USA and Israel and in fact the OECD average. In recent years, our growth in this area has been outpaced by countries such as Ireland, Poland, and Korea.

We have a strong savings history, but our financial markets are not set up to build, nurture and support businesses over the longer term.

Our angel (seed) investment market is still in its infancy compared to mature markets such as the UK, where significant tax benefits are afforded to investors in start-ups. We have one of the most generous Superannuation schemes in the world, yet that does not translate into significant investment in entrepreneurial lead organisations and start-ups.

The solution lies in a complete overhaul of how we view what it means to be an entrepreneur and how we as Australians understand it. It does not mean to live in Toorak, Vaucluse, Dalkeith, Hamilton, or Malvern. It does not mean to be power-hungry greedy or narcissistic. It means to be a creator, an innovator, a maverick, a visionary. We should not let the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ allow us to beat people up and withdraw our support for them. They are in fact doing that very Australian thing of ‘having a go’. This should be celebrated.

Michael’s book shows the human side of some very successful innovators and entrepreneurs from a cross section of society including business, creativity and founders who are household names and who have created household brands. His interviews with people such as Jimmy Barnes and Lee Kernaghan demonstrate to us another type of innovation – and innovation is the bedrock of entrepreneurialism.

His vast array of interviewees reminds us that while technology is the future, entrepreneurs can operate businesses in any sector. The book shows that to be an entrepreneur means to have a skill and to attach that to a vision and purpose and ‘have a go’. He has been able to open the minds and hearts of some of the most successful people in the entrepreneurial field in Australia, and in fact the world, and this has produced some significant lessons for start-ups, corporate executives, established business operators and politicians to understand.

As a society we owe these people all the guidance, respect and support we can give. We also owe this to ourselves, so we can help them to help our nation create our own Facebooks, Apples and Amazons.

Looking forward to the next 20 years, it is time for Australia to embrace all its blessings and step out of the shadows of exploiting only the resources we have and work together to help entrepreneurs and those who work with them, to build on this amazing nation to create the Australia of tomorrow.

Peter Ivany AM






‘If you start thinking you are good at something that is often the day you stop trying to be better and open the back door for someone to come in after you. That’s why we always aim higher. We never feel like we’re done.’

Drew Houston, Co-founder and CEO, Dropbox


‘Doing what you love is what drives you every day.’

Peter lvany


Peter Ivany was CEO at the time when Hoyts Cinemas grew from a small chain in Australia to a global business with over 2,000 theatres operating in 12 countries.

After the sale of Hoyts in 1999, Peter built his own Family Office as an investor – Ivany Investment Group. He has a range of diversified investments, including property, private equity, technology, bonds and shares, distressed debt, start-ups, and company turnarounds, both in Australia and overseas. Current investments include IMAX, Sydney Zoo and Allied Credit.

He is a member of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust and serves as Chairman of the NIDA Foundation Trust (National Institute of Dramatic Art), the Sydney Swans Foundation (AFL Australian Football League), and the Advisory Council for the Sydney Film Festival.  Peter is also a Board member of NIDA, Allied Credit, Sydney Zoo and serves as Chair of the Loftus Peak Advisory Board.  He is an Honorary Life Governor of the Jewish Communal Appeal and a Life Member of the Sydney Swans.

Previously Peter was Chairman of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) and Chairman of the Jewish International Film Foundation of Australia. He has contributed to the Boards of the MCA, the President’s Council of the Art Gallery NSW, and was a founding member of Events NSW, which is now Destination NSW. Peter is also an Adjunct Professor for the Faculty of Business at the University of Technology Sydney.

In 2007, Peter was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), for service to the community including through charity fundraising as well as contribution to Jewish causes, the arts, sporting organisations and business education.

To Peter and his wife Sharon, business was always a family affair. All successful in their own right, Peter and Sharon’s children are passionate about the family’s philanthropic projects and actively participate in regular reviews of the family’s charitable projects.

The Gold Card

Peter Ivany’s signature was very familiar to me in my 20s. I was one of the fortunate holders of the Hoyts Gold Card, a special card issued to a small number of people which entitled you to:

  • Feel great when you handed it over at the cinema;
  • Two free tickets to any movie (Hoyts had all the best releases).

I distinctly recall being at the cinema at Westfield in the late ’90s when a server behind the counter came running up to me as I made my way to the cinema after obtaining my tickets.

‘Is it true?’ he said.

‘Is what true?’ I replied. ‘That you know Peter Ivany?’

‘Yes, I do,’ I replied. ‘He is a family friend. How did you know?’

‘His signature is on the back of the Gold Card you showed to get your tickets. He is a wonderful CEO.’

This story stuck with me because most people working on the front lines of a business don’t know or care who the CEO is of the whole company. The fact he knew and cared was recognition of the mettle of Peter Ivany.

Peter joined Hoyts when he was relatively young and took the role as CEO when no one else put their hand up. Using Rupert Murdoch as inspiration, he was determined to make the business global.


Pl: ‘At the time I was building, Rupert Murdoch had already become a global businessman. I looked at what he was doing, and it inspired me. I was trying to build a global business, so I took a lot of inspiration from what he was doing, particularly as a fellow Australian. He really drives his vision.’

Things came full circle for Peter when, in 1998 he was able to interview Rupert Murdoch on stage at the Hoyts’ annual conference, just as he (Peter) had reached a significant pinnacle himself as a global businessman.


Pl: ‘The greats live and breathe every aspect of their business. It is with them every waking hour of their life and even when they are asleep. The greats wake up in the middle of the night and make notes on the business. The greats are always a step ahead, and the greats are always passionate about their business.’

Peter says there were many sleepless nights as he built his business – juxtaposed from the glossy annual reports and opening nights. The reality was that he and his team put in a lot of hard work.

Hoyts was originally majority owned by Peter’s wife’s (Sharon’s) father, the late Leon Fink. In time, the family was advised to corporatise the business; Peter volunteered to take on the role as CEO and subsequently bought out many of his family members (with the help of Lend Lease and Hellman and Friedman private equity) and grew the business under a renewed vision.

Peter’s father was a survivor of Auschwitz who immigrated to Australia. His drive was something that Peter observed and took on. He felt an obligation to do something to honour his parents’ sacrifice and felt it imperative to optimise every opportunity he received, always grateful for being so fortunate.


Pl: ‘I believe that any challenging situations I have been in in life have helped me grow as I have had to work through them. I feel a responsibility rather than an entitlement.’

This philosophy, coupled with the values instilled in his formative years, motivated Peter to lead a significant business and have a passion to contribute to the community.  It is clear, that he weaves it through all of his activities today.

Lessons he teaches his kids

  • Back yourself
  • Don’t get confused by other people’s dogmas

Importance of finance

Peter emphasises the importance of the strong Chief Financial Officer.


Pl: ‘Throughout my time at Hoyts and now as an investor, I have always had a strong CFO. Not someone who would challenge what I saw entrepreneurially, but who could provide balance. You need a CFO to stabilise the business and create an environment where your assumptions are challenged and your ideas tested.’

A believer in lifelong learning, Peter sets himself one challenge every year. On top of that, he regularly attends Harvard and undertakes courses to update his knowledge. He reads voraciously and says he is a ‘dreamer’ at heart.



Pl: ‘Money is not what drives you every day. Doing what you love is what drives you every day.’

Selling to Kerry Packer

When he felt it was the right time to move on, Peter made the tough decision to sell the business. This is always an emotional affair for any entrepreneur.

Peter sold Hoyts to the Packer family after conducting direct negotiations with James Packer in 1999.

The sale both cemented Peter’s position as one of Australia’s leading international entrepreneurs and crystallised the legacy of Hoyts itself.

A Sydney Morning Herald article of March 4, 2010 explains the intriguing history of Hoyts from Peter’s sale and tenure and into the future. ‘A decade after arriving from the US in the 1980s, the local Hoyts operations took a colourful turn when a consortium of Hellman & Friedman, Lend Lease and Hoyts management, including Peter Ivany, a son-in-law of the founding Fink family, bought the business. It was floated in 1996 before the late Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings took it private in 1999.’

After Packer’s ownership, the business changed hands again to a private equity organisation and then in 2015, China’s Wanda Corporation bought Hoyts. Wanda is a large commercial property developer and the world’s largest cinema operator.

The trajectory of Hoyts ownership is as fascinating as it is varied, and the fact it is now owned by the well-regarded Wanda group is in large part due to the solid foundations built by Peter and his team.

On Selling


Pl: ‘I finally had a good night’s sleep for the first time in many years when the sale had gone through. I realised I had that financial security.’

After the money was in the bank, Peter didn’t go out and engage in hedonistic celebrations. That’s not his style. Instead, he redoubled his commitment to charity and other not-for-profit boards, a commitment he has increased to the extent that today it comprises 50% of his time and a significant portion of his funds. This is an area of his life he takes very seriously and with which he seems very determined to continue to effect positive change.

Life Philosophy


Pl: ‘The Scorecard of Life is how much you have contributed to others and what you do with the money for others.’

lvany Investment Group

A ‘Family Office’ is a term given to an investment fund for a family’s wealth. It is usually when a family has sold a business and has capital and wants to invest it as a business.

Peter set up Ivany Investment Group after selling Hoyts. It is an investment house investing funds for his immediate family. In global terms this is referred to as a Family Office, although this is not a common term in Australia.


Pl: ‘We don’t require large numbers of people, but we have a strong and loyal team. I have an accounts division (led by CFO Scott Sheedy), an assistant, and Colin Resnick (ex-Hoyts CFO) who has been with me for over 30 years and sits on the Board of IMAX and some of my other investments.’

What does a family office invest in?

Ivany Investment Group’s assets are capital, experience and credibility. Peter acknowledges it has been a ten-year path to firmly entrench Ivany investment Group in the market.

Every Family Office or investment company has a different philosophy and is usually driven both by the market and by the vision of the Principal.

Ivany Investment Group invests in four main assets classes:

  • Bonds
  • Property (mainly lending rather than development)
  • Private Equity
  • Technology (mature businesses based in Silicon Valley or Israel usually).

Some investments are passive and held through funds and others, such as the private equity assets (e.g. the Sydney Zoo) are active. When the investments are active it means Peter is invested and sits on the board, using his experience, network and expertise to guide the people he is backing.

Peter’s investments in private equity are typically held from three to five years on average, although some for as long as seven and some such as IMAX, indefinitely.

The Group has developed its own sophisticated computer programmes and Peter says this has really refined its investment edge.

Peter has invested in some high-profile assets including IMAX Cinema in Sydney, BASE backpackers chain, Video Ezy, and Tourism Asset Holdings Australia (TAHL). Peter was a board member and significant shareholder in TAHL which he exited after a successful sale to Abu Dabi Investment Authority (ADIA). Managed by Accor Hotels, TAHL was Australia’s largest hotel owner.

Peter is currently engaged in a substantial private equity project to build a new zoo in Blacktown in Western Sydney called the Sydney Zoo. Peter is enthusiastic about the community benefits of the zoo, and it is clear that these are important outcomes to him. Social benefits are a key consideration prior to his deployment of capital and strategic support.

Owing to Peter’s lifelong passion for the arts, the group also invests, ad hoc, in film and theatre, something that started 25 years ago when he was a founding investor in Les Miserables, from which he still earns revenue to this day, thanks to his founding investment status. He is invested in Phantom of the Opera and more recently the Rocky Horror Show, Kinky Boots, The King and I and Thriller.

Peter’s business career is far from over, but his legacy to date has been substantial.

He created a global business which has made a substantial return for all its owners, now a very esteemed company. Further, Sydney’s 2MMM Radio was bought and owned for a period by Hoyts media, which oversaw its growth during that time. It remains a unique asset, in that in addition to being a leading network, it was also a national one.

Peter has also contributed to the recent success of NIDA and AFTRS (Australian Film Television and Radio School), both very important organisations in Australia’s arts community on whose boards he has sat. Additionally, his involvement in the Jewish Film Festival has seen it grow over twenty-eight years from a not-for-profit to a sustainable business making sizable cultural contributions.

It is a truly entrepreneurial result that all of Peter’s creations are physically manifested and can be seen and experienced. All continue their success to date. This is something of which Peter is rightfully proud, and it underscores the viability of his creations.

Peter’s closing advice for other entrepreneurs is, ‘Failure can be a precursor to success and not necessarily an obstacle.’




Melbourne-born businessman and philanthropist Peter Ivany made part of his fortune as Chief Executive of Australia’s second largest movie exhibitor, Hoyts Cinemas.

During his time at Hoyts Cinemas, which he ran between 1988 and 1999, Mr Ivany grew the business to over 2,000 theatres operating in 12 countries. Further business successes include home video rental business Video Ezy, and retailer Harris Scarfe, and he is currently the executive chairman of his own diversified investment company, Ivany Investment Group (IIG), as well as being equally, if not more, visible for his ongoing philanthropic activities and community involvement. Mr Ivany spoke with us recently to tell the story of how he made his wealth, shared advice on business for entrepreneurs, and explained his value system of giving back to the community. 

Hoyts Cinemas

“In 1981, Twentieth Century Fox had been just taken over by Marvin Davis,” Mr Ivany says, “an oil man from Texas. His group were more interested in the real estate than the theatre business, so they put the cinemas business, Hoyts, up for sale. My father-in-law, Leon Fink was one of a number of partners that owned two theatres in Melbourne and they ended up outbidding all the others for the Hoyts’ business.”

Mr. Fink and his partners invited Mr Ivany to be part of the newly extended business and in 1983 he, his father-in-law and two brothers-in-law bought out the other existing partners and began to run Hoyts Cinemas together. “We also ran a range of other businesses at that time.”

These other businesses included two public companies in radio and other media, advertising, film and TV production, including the largest radio network in the country at the time, Triple M.

When Peter was appointed CEO of Hoyts, in 1988, a particularly hard economic time in Australia following the 1987 property crash, there was much work to be done to try to turn around the business. This was eventually achieved with a lot of support, hard work, determination, and a lot of sleepless nights.

“In 1993 my father-in-law, Leon, passed away, and I was able to buy out my other partners with the help of Lend Lease and Hellman and Friedman, a private equity firm out of San Francisco.  

“We bought Hoyts out in 1993, started to expand internationally and in 1996 we went public, having grown the chain from 40 to over 2,000 theatres around the world. We were public for two or three years before we decided to sell the business to Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH) in 1999.”

“At Hoyts, we rebuilt and reshaped not only the Australian cinema landscape but the cinema landscape internationally,” he says. “We were the first group to build multiplexes in Australia the late 80s and by expanding on this format, we saw the level of attendance increase virtually four-fold from the time I started in the business to the time I finished. It was very exciting.”

Mr. Ivany considers this period of his career, which he calls ‘phase one’, to have ended with the sale of Hoyts in 1999 to CPH. After the sale of Hoyts, he began to investigate and invest in businesses in different areas. These investments culminated with Mr. Ivany establishing the Ivany Investment Group which also expands on his philanthropic interests and activities.

Community focus

A driving force for Mr Ivany in all his businesses is the idea that through business acumen and generating profits, his companies could make positive changes for the whole, creating social benefits as well as economic ones.

Rather than spending more of his life building another company, as he did with Hoyts, travelling and filling his time with work, Peter wanted to give something back to society at large, and he wanted to do it in Australia.

“After the sale of Hoyts, I decided to spend half my life in philanthropy. It was an easy decision for me to make because I wanted to make a contribution, and hopefully a difference, to the community that had given me so much. The interests that I had, I just continued with them. I’ve stayed in film through AFTRS (Australian Film, Television and Radio School), NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art), the Jewish Film Festival and the Sydney Film Festival. I delved more into the sporting community with the Sydney Swans’ organisation and the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust. I was involved in art through the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art and, of course, the Jewish community with the Jewish Communal Appeal. Also, I serve as an Adjunct Professor at University of Technology Sydney where I lecture and teach. So those are the few areas I’ve developed more fully in philanthropy.”

Having had the experience of living on a kibbutz at age nineteen, Mr Ivany developed a social conscience early on in life, and it has stayed with him to this day. His experiences with Hoyts, both good and bad, helped him meet the challenges faced in his philanthropic endeavours, ultimately helping them to succeed.

Peter Ivany - The Australian Business Executive
I’m not going to say that there weren’t some dark nights, nights where it was hard to see the future

“I spend approximately 50% of my time in philanthropy and 50% in business. During the tough times of 2008, and even these [COVID-19] times, you end up spending more time in business, when it needs it, but over time it sort of averages out so that there is a balance.”

Backed by an excellent team at IIG, Mr Ivany can utilise his entrepreneurial skills on the business side to make sure it all runs smoothly and to ensure that they provide safe cash flow investments that in turn allows him to continue with his philanthropic endeavours and find that balance that he enjoys. For him, it’s never been about ‘who’s got the highest net worth.”

Mr Ivany still enjoys the business side of his life. IIG is diversified with its investments in property funding, technology, stocks and bonds and private equity and while some investments are passive, some are active. It is the active ones that provides him an opportunity to use his experiences and contribute mostly to the visions of others. He has spent considerable time over the last few years working on and developing the businesses of the Sydney Zoo, Allied Finance and IMAX, currently three of his larger projects.   

“In the past I’ve been involved in quite a few ‘active’ projects that not only build businesses but also increases shareholder value such as Video Ezy and Tourism Asset Holdings Limited, “TAHL,” managed by Accor Hotels, which was Australia’s largest hotel operators.”

The diversification between passive ventures or investments allows him to be able to allocate more time to his philanthropic and community-based work.

“The philanthropy is not just a time commitment,” Mr Ivany says, “it’s also strategic. You’re helping people build their organisations and helping them reach their visions for the community. The not-for-profit sector is growing rapidly, probably because more and more people are finding that, not only is it an important way to spend their time, it is also vastly fulfilling to be involved with organisations that benefit social welfare.”

Doing business without fear

When Mr Ivany found himself in the position to buy out his partners at Hoyts, he had no real experience of what he was going to be up against and therefore he had no fear. This is something he admits was key to his success.

“For approximately three years, between 1987-1990, we were facing huge losses, so I had to ask the question, do I go and do something else or do I try to find a way to make it work?  At the core of it, I believe I am someone who likes to find solutions and who isn’t afraid of the hard work it takes to make things happen and even in this situation, I truly believed that I could find a solution. When I put CEO on my business card it enabled me to make the often tough, necessary decisions and slowly we made our way back from the negative and started turning it into something positive.”

Mr Ivany admits that the most important skill in that situation is to back yourself and have a vision. You can’t look at it in terms of risk analysis, because the risks are too big. Mr Ivany feels the main traits of entrepreneurship are having confidence, backing yourself and working around the clock.

“We were able to find hope when there was none,” he explains. “We restructured the whole business by reducing our bank debt, we sold off surplus assets and significantly improved our profitability in our core business.”

Making a business successful is all about finding the small positives, which Mr Ivany did as CEO of Hoyts, and then timing it right to find the solutions. In the late 80’s they could have sold the business cheaply and moved on elsewhere, but they held out because not only did he enjoy the business, he believed in it.

“I’m not going to say that there weren’t some dark nights, nights where it was hard to see the future. There were times when you get very little sleep, and there was no balance in your life. We made it with the most finite of margins.”

At age 35, Mr. Ivany found that people were beginning to believe in him on the back of this incredible turnaround. This kind of success can provide an enormous amount of confidence for somebody in a leadership position – and confidence is key.

“Any leader has to have people that follow them and for people to follow a leader they have to believe in the person that makes the decisions. To be that leader, you need to believe in yourself. If you believe in yourself others will as well, because people want answers, they want solutions and they want a pathway in life. Any leader has to give people paths.”

“What I have found is that once somebody has become used to running a business themselves, and has achieved a certain level of autonomy, their skills become far more general than specific, and in effect they make themselves virtually unemployable in any other format.”

“If you want to continue to work, then in effect you have to continue to be an entrepreneur, because really there is no other solution. It’s difficult when you have run your own business, made the decisions, and reached a certain age to then pivot into an institution with multi-layered, bureaucratic systems.  I’m not saying that it can’t be done, just that it is difficult to do.”

Entrepreneurs are often born by realising that they are leaders rather than followers. Once they have found a way to live this lifestyle, it’s all about finding the right people who share the vision and lead them effectively.

“At the end of the day, I work with a small team. I’m still involved in every aspect of all the businesses, but it works, because you don’t have those layers of bureaucracy to slow you down and you don’t have to ask for permission. With everyone contributing, you can get ahead of your competition and you take out all the obstacles to success.”

“Even with big businesses and governments that are full of executives, politicians, and policy makers the final decisions are made by one or two people, it’s just the way the structures work. The key to success is to have one clear direction that everyone is pulling towards.”

“That’s sort of how it worked for me,” Mr Ivany concludes, “and then basically I’ve continued that way of doing things across a number of different organisations, and it’s been effective and it’s been helpful, hopefully. What I’m most proud of, in a sense, is that every organisation I’ve been involved with are still thriving today.”

Peter Ivany has had an entrepreneurial career that has spanned more than 40 years.  During this time, he has worked through the highs and lows that comes with the territory of hard work, determination, and strong business practices. He counts himself fortunate to be able to take this opportunity to use part of his wealth to give back to the Australian community. For more information on Mr Ivany’s investment firm, visit www.ivanyinvest.com.au.

Philanthropy secures the future of rural mental health program

Through the Ivany Foundation, philanthropist Peter Ivany AM and his family have committed to fund Mission Australia’s Connections program in Broken Hill for three years, after government backing for the pilot program ran out in June last year.

The former Hoyts CEO is no stranger to success, growing the Australian theatre business to a global brand with over 2,200 theatres operating in 12 countries. At just 43, Peter sold the company while it was thriving, instead opting to divide his time equally between business and helping those in need.

For Peter, giving is something he feels incredibly passionate about and it’s a value his whole family shares.

“You can only eat three meals, wear one suit and live in one house,” he says. “You get to a point where you are just accumulating wealth and that’s never been an objective of mine. It’s always been just a tool I can do things with – but every person is driven by different things.”

Peter first contributed to Mission Australia in 2013, and was drawn to the organisation because of its work and rich history. “It’s an incredible institution that’s stood the test of time,” he says.

After making regular donations, he was approached by Mission Australia CEO, James Toomey in 2019 about backing a service in danger of closing due to a lack of government funding.

Mission Australia’s Connections Program in Broken Hill, NSW links socially isolated people to find friendship and confidence in the community. Run by peer-support workers who have experienced these issues first-hand, the program seeks to support those suffering from mental illness, anxiety, loneliness and isolation, therefore decreasing emergency room admissions and hospital presentations after hours.

In the first six months of being open, visits to the local Emergency Department for mental health support were reduced by 80 per cent. The community also saw a 65 per cent reduction in admissions to the hospital for mental health issues. Overall, this reduced local health district service costs by almost $761,000.

Initially funded as a pilot program by NSW Health, funding was due to expire on 30 June 2019. But Peter’s generous gifts over the next three years mean that the service can continue to positively impact those in the community. Knowing that he has the power to change lives is something Peter finds both humbling and motivating.

“I don’t know what would have happened to it if I wouldn’t have helped fund it, but it’s pretty inspiring when you look at what’s happened in that community,” he says.

Peter will soon visit the Connections program first-hand and meet some of the participants.

“I do like to get that level of involvement with projects, to see actual people and how their lives have improved, what could have happened and what did happen. I’ve had the chance to see the looks on their faces and that’s inspiring enough. I love that,” he tells.

Peter also believes you never get poor by giving, so is always encouraging people – especially those with capacity to give more – to pay it forward and help those in need.

“What you help them with in life will be there forever for them. When you can touch anyone’s life like that, it’s very rewarding,” he says. “You’ve got to find a way to open the door to give everyone a bit of a platform in life, because you’ve got to launch from somewhere.”

Mission Australia Article Reference

The passions of philanthropist Peter Ivany

The 2019 SFF brings together two of Peter Ivany’s passions – film and the Sydney Swans – and comes on the heels of a large gift to help secure the future of the festival.

For Peter Ivany, the $200,000 he and his wife Sharon gifted to the Sydney Film Festival is the continuation of a life-long love of movies. The young man, who made a film of his own while on a kibbutz, went on to become the CEO and major shareholder of Hoyts in the mid-80s, overseeing its growth from a small Australian player to a global business with 2,000 theatres in 12 countries. When Ivany exited Hoyts in 1999, the serial entrepreneur set up his own investment company and added philanthropist to his CV. “After I sold Hoyts, I made a vow to myself – I was only 43 – I said half of my time was going to be in philanthropy and community-based things and the other half would be in business. You’ve got to keep the business going or the philanthropy stops pretty quickly,’ he laughs. “And I’ve kept to that. Overall it’s been 50/50.” The son of refugees, philanthropy is stitched into the fabric of the life Ivany shares with his wife and three children. “Broadly we think we should give back, that’s just what we think. There’s always an element of luck in life and the world has been good to us, Australia has been good to us so. It’s not even duty-bound, it just feels right to do at every level. We’ve had a significant transfer of wealth and creation of wealth in the last 20 or 30 years, and that’s got to recycle itself back into the community otherwise what are we doing it for?” Ivany believes in contributing through time and commitment, not just giving, and his list of community positions past and present is long. Alongside the Sydney Film Festival and Sydney Swans, right now much of his time is dominated by roles at the Jewish Communal Appeal, Sports Connect and NIDA, but he’s had long associations with other institutions such as the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS), the Museum of Contemporary Art (last year he announced a gift of $1 million to the MCA), and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, to name a few.
Sydney Film Festival CEO Leigh Small, Peter Ivany, Festival Director Nashen Moodley.
His association with the Sydney Film Festival stretches back more than 15 years and in 2006 Ivany became Chairman of SFF’s Advisory Committee. “We’ve been there 15 years plus and we’ve watched it go through its various incarnations but we really like where it’s at the moment and we love the work it’s doing. The Sydney Film Festival has become accessible, successful and fulfills many roles in society. They just do a great job,” says Ivany. “So it has the history, it’s well run, sustainable and more and more people are coming. At the same time the film business is showing less and less diversity as it is so dominated by the mega-players. A lot of filmmakers have nowhere to showcase their wares. If you don’t see the films there, you may never see them anywhere. It is an important part of Sydney’s cultural fabric and important for us to support.” Of course this is particularly true of Australian film and Ivany loves that the SFF provides a platform to display the talents of all the students who have gone through the doors of the other cultural institutions he supports, such as NIDA and AFTRS. “To enable people to pursue all their talents and passions is one measure of a society that is working. It’s good for the person doing the work, the people receiving it, the community around it. It’s creative, it’s positive, it’s not a destructive part of our community, it can hold the community together. Ultimately it gives people many, many positive experiences.” Those experiences include the sharing and transfer of knowledge; the simple, pure pleasure of being entertained; and a sense of community. “You get people from all walks of life who tap into their knowledge and come together to share their experiences,” he says of filmmaking. “In the end you create a more vibrant society, a prouder society that is a reflection of what we’ve achieved.”
AFL Grand Final 2012 at the MCG Sydney captain Adam Goodes at the end of the game.
29th September 2012, The Age Sport, Picture by Wayne Taylor

This year SFF brings together two of Ivany’s great passions – film and football – with the screening of The Final Quarter.

Made by fellow philanthropist, Ian Darling, the film is mirror on events surrounding the racial vilification of champion Sydney Swans player, Indigenous leader and Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, during the final three years of his career.

“I can see what can happen if we move away from zero tolerance on these issues and accept that type of type of behaviour and what it can do to society. The film gives us the opportunity to tell the story to people who may not have seen it the first time. It’s a brilliant documentary. It’s not opinion, it’s all archival, factual material. It will give people exposure to archival footage of what was actually said, not other people’s interpretation of it. People will learn from it, and ultimately it will create a better society.

While the booing grew deafening, Goodes maintained his dignity even as his mental health suffered. And the Sydney Swans stood by their player.

“I’m pretty proud of where the Swans were on this,” says Ivany who has been Chairman of the Sydney Swans Foundation since 2005.

“We did the right thing by the community, we did the right thing by our supporters, we did the right thing by Adam. I think today that film will have more resonance because we’ve advanced as a community and I think the community is ready to understand what happened.”

Ivany has other passions – the Jewish community, education and health – but his support for the arts is steadfast.

“You don’t have a successful economy just to build big buildings,” he says. “How culture grows and develops is not only a reflection of the community, it is a social dividend.”


The Sydney Film Festival runs until June 16.

For screenings of The Final Quarter, go here.

Please call 1300 733 733 or visit sff.org.au for more information.

This is something that I want to fulfil

COMMUNAL stalwart Peter Ivany will donate at least $2 million to JCA to help secure the future of the Sydney Jewish community.

The funding, which Ivany is giving in addition to his current donations, will be invested immediately, with the intention for it to grow substantially and for capital to be periodically released over time.

A long-term JCA supporter and one of its eight honorary life governors, Ivany said he was motivated to pledge the significant gift for two main reasons.

“I want to do my best to ensure that JCA continues. As the community gets bigger, as there are more institutions, JCA will need to be better staffed, better resourced,” he said.

“As its own organisational structure expands, it will continually have a need to set up new projects that come along and it always needs people to look after not just the fundraising role, but the planning role as well.”

The second motivation, he said, was his desire to allow his children to follow their own passions and donate to their own causes once he passes on “to the great footy field in the sky”.

“This is something that I want to fulfil – which has been a really important part of my life – past my death,” Ivany explained.

“I really want them to follow what they want to do, not what we necessarily did.”

He added, “In the end, nobody really cares how much money you make – what they care about is what you’ve done for others and if you imbue that value system in your own children, they will follow it.”

Ivany noted that his decision had been made in consultation with wife Sharon and his family.

He said he felt “very safe” with JCA underpinning the community’s institutions.

“JCA is the overall bulwark that makes the community survive and prosper over a long time as the community changes its own priorities,” Ivany said.

“Melbourne has had a number of institutions that have gone by the wayside, whereas Sydney, when the institutions have had various issues, as long as they maintained their relevance, they’ve been enabled to continue and to be supported.”

He continued, “I believe in the structure of JCA.

“As a philanthropist, you can’t rule from the grave, so there is a point where you can take the pressure away from your children, your remaining family and trustees and give it to the organisation and just have a belief that they’ll figure it out … have faith in the people of JCA and give them the freedom to distribute your contribution.”

Ivany encouraged others – regardless of wealth – to follow his philanthropic example.

“Everyone should give something – whatever their passion is – to their community, to whatever they feel would really leave their legacy in the world,” he said.

“Within three generations, wealth just dissipates for a whole range of reasons … at least by giving you’ve had some impact where some of your life’s work has gone.”

JCA president Stephen Chipkin praised Ivany, saying he had “enriched our community over many years”.

“His leadership, by example, in JCA’s long-term capital strategy is no exception. This extremely generous gift from Peter, Sharon and their family supports our focus on the sustainability of our community through major capital gifts, endowments, and the recent launch of our two per cent Bequest Program,” he said.

“Taken together, these donations, no matter how small, will ensure a vibrant and secure Jewish community for future generations.”

With hopefully many decades of service to the community still ahead of him, Ivany said that in the end, he hoped his legacy would be the difference he had made.

“I hope I’ve lead and not just spoken – that I’ve walked the walk – and I hope that some people would borrow some of what I’ve done and use it for the betterment of their lives,” he said.

“In terms of legacy, I think you can actually look at that question in the reverse – the biggest beneficiary, apart from the community, has been myself.

“The rewards you get seeing how people grow and develop, how you can help people solve problems to make their lives better. It’s all part of a pool of people all rowing in the same direction to make a better community. You can’t take away that satisfaction and happiness.”

This article written by GARETH NARUNSKY first appeared in The Australian Jewish News on

February 19, 2019

High-Flyer Finds Board Work Elevates Career

IT’S at this stage of Peter Ivany’s “third career” that he says he is doing his best work.

A former long-serving chief executive of Hoyts, Mr Ivany (right and inset, in 1996) put his high-flying corporate career aside around 15 years ago.

“I made the decision to spend 50 per cent of my time on boards and foundations, not for profit work, and the other 50 on my own business,” Mr Ivany said.

“I’ve largely stuck to that and I’ve been lucky enough to do it. If you’ve done well in life, you give back.”

Mr Ivany, of Point Piper, has spent time on the board or as chair of the following institutions: Sydney Swans Foundation, AFTRS, Sydney Film Festival, Jewish Communal Appeal, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Now, at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts in Kensington, his influence has been tangibly felt.

NIDA has been constructing its $14m multidisciplinary graduate school, which is due to open by the end of the year.

“This project, once it is complete, elevates us to one of the very top drama schools in the world,” he said.

“It’s up there with RADA, Juilliard and Yale. It is an elite school.

“This is a place where, much like the AIS, with training people can reach the top of their passion.”

While Mr Ivany first began to work with foundations in the early 2000s, he noted the level of expertise and enthusiasm for the work had increased exponentially.

“20 years ago it was not the kind of thing people necessarily wanted to be a part of,” he said.

“Today, being on a foundation is a feather in your cap. It’s respected and it rounds you out as a person.

“In the end we all want a better community for our children. All of us making money just for ourselves is only a piece of life.

“Australians are recognising that you have to give back, it’s the right thing to do.”

Cage Free Western Sydney Zoo


The NSW Government has approved the lease of a 16.5-hectare area of land in Western Sydney Parklands for the development of state-of-the-art wildlife attraction. The consortium building Sydney Zoo, backed by Director Peter Ivany, Executive Chairman of the Ivany Investment Group and former Chief Executive of Hoyts Cinemas, is proposing a new type of cage-free animal attraction featuring elevated walkways offering opportunities to view lions, cheetahs, elephants, wildebeest, giraffes and rhinoceros. The $36 million attraction will also feature glassed observation areas for aquatic life including hippopotamus and crocodiles; Australian reptile and nocturnal animal houses; and native waterways with animals that include bull sharks. Sydney Zoo Managing Director Jake Burgess said he hoped to attract Sydney families to the zoo which will have large open spaces, explaining “we’re going for a smaller number of large enclosures with large animals. “79% of our audience in the immediate vicinity is families. They have a choice, they can drive for an hour to get to Taronga or not participate.”

The NSW Government has approved the lease of a 16.5-hectare area of land in Western Sydney Parklands for the development of state-of-the-art wildlife attraction. The consortium building Sydney Zoo, backed by Director Peter Ivany, Executive Chairman of the Ivany Investment Group and former Chief Executive of Hoyts Cinemas, is proposing a new type of cage-free animal attraction featuring elevated walkways offering opportunities to view lions, cheetahs, elephants, wildebeest, giraffes and rhinoceros. The $36 million attraction will also feature glassed observation areas for aquatic life including hippopotamus and crocodiles; Australian reptile and nocturnal animal houses; and native waterways with animals that include bull sharks. Sydney Zoo Managing Director Jake Burgess said he hoped to attract Sydney families to the zoo which will have large open spaces, explaining “we’re going for a smaller number of large enclosures with large animals. “79% of our audience in the immediate vicinity is families. They have a choice, they can drive for an hour to get to Taronga or not participate.”

A KPMG report suggests the zoo will contribute around $45 million a year to the NSW economy and $3 million in extra tourist spending. Commenting on the attraction, NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman stated “since Taronga Zoo was first established 100 years ago, Sydney’s population has absolutely ballooned. “We think now there is room another world-class zoo here in western Sydney.” The proposed zoo, adjacent to Bungarribee’s new picnic and playgrounds, will be a popular new attraction to Western Sydney, bringing family fun, recreation and ecological education to visitors, and adding to the already great assortment of recreational activities available in the Western Sydney Parklands. “The focus on native animals and Indigenous culture will be a highlight, and it will illustrate the dramatic and compelling stories of the local Darug people.” The new zoo, located next to the Great Western Highway, will, if approved, open in late 2017 and is expected to attract about 745,000 visitors a year.

NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres said Western Sydney was emerging as a dynamic new centre for tourism and recreation investment with world class facilities right in the backyard of two million local residents. Minister Ayres explained “the Sydney Zoo will be uniquely located to service the strong family and relatives market in Western Sydney and tap into the growing number of international tourists visiting the west of Sydney as they travel to and from the Blue Mountains.” Around 50 full-time and 50 casual positions are expected to be created when the Zoo opens. The Zoo is also in talks with Western Sydney University about potentially establishing a Centre of Excellence in Wildlife Conservation – a research facility housed on the Zoo site. Images: Artists impressions of the proposed Sydney Zoo, and its plan.