Justin Hemmes is an Australian businessman and son of Merivale Group founders, John and Merivale Hemmes. Following the passing of John Hemmes in 2015, Justin Hemmes has been the scion and CEO of Merivale Group, owning and operating roughly 70 pubs, hotels and restaurants in Greater Sydney. He and his family appeared on the Financial Review 2018 Rich List at no.78 with an estimated net worth of roughly $950 million. In 2022 this wealth is now estimated at $1.1 Billion.
Connections to Government
Mr. Hemmes has been engaged with various members of the Liberal Party at state and federal levels.
Liberal Party Federal Election Fundraiser
In 2019 Mr. Hemmes hosted a Liberal Party election fundraiser at one of Merivale Group's hotels, The Hermitage. Attendance was charged at $3300 per person for the two-hour event and, for those seeking to dine with then-Leader of the Liberal Party, Scott Morrison, these patrons were charged $13,750. The following weekend, former-Prime Minister, John Howard, was scheduled to host a cocktail and dinner event, charging patrons $1025 for attendance.
Friendship with Josh Frydenburg
Mr. Hemmes has been described as "close friend" of Mr. Frydenburg. In 2021 it was reported that Mr. Hemmes attended the parliament gallery to spectate then-Treasurer, Josh Frydenburg's, 2019 budget speech, alongside Aussie Home Loans executive, James Symond, and media scion, Ryan Stokes. This attendance was described as part of a "bromance spectacle" and a promotion of Mr. Frydenburg's "high-powered friendships."
Assistance with Design of JobKeeper
In June of 2020 it was revealed that Mr. Hemmes was contacted by Mr. Frydenburg following a dinner in March of 2020 where the JobKeeper scheme was first developed into a $130 billion program. Mr. Hemmes was consulted alongside three other businessmen with regards to the JobKeeper scheme. These discussions took place while Merivale Group was embroiled in a $129 million wage underpayment suit.
Advisory Council to Dominic Perrottet
In 2018 Mr. Hemmes joined a group of Australian business people, referred to as the Treasurer's advisory council, to provide feedback regarding business regulation and highlight trends to then-NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet. Mr. Perrottet stated that the council's intentions were to "increase productivity, improve regulatory efficiency and make it easier to do business in NSW.”
The committee included ANZ chairman, David Gonski, Coca-Cola Group managing director, Alison Watkins, Mirvac managing director, Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, the NSW Business Chamber chief executive, Stephen Cartwright, Origin Energy managing director, Frank Calabria, former Ramsay Health Care chief executive, Chris Rex, UBS Australasia chief, Matthew Grounds, and Virgin head, John Borghetti.
Merivale Employee Strip Searched
In 2015 CCTV footage was released showing Mr. Hemmes supervising and directing security staff to strip search a Merivale employee in 2010. The footage shows a George Street Bar employee, known as Luu, being strip searched by one security guard while another blocks the exit to the office.
Luu sued Mr. Hemmes for assault, false imprisonment and trespassing, with the trial taking place in 2014. Luu alleged that his genitalia were examined as part of the strip search which revealed small quantities of cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine. Court documents revealed that, during the engagement, one security guard shouted "Where is Justin's money?" and Mr. Hemmes questioned "Do you know who the f... I am?" The case was closed with an out-of-court settlement.