How much is Shaun Juniper worth? He wrinkles his nose and sighs. "Ahhh, the money question," The says as if he's been asked this before, many times, and clearly finds it to be a source of slight embarrassment. Fair enough. Juniper doesn't measure what he does in terms of dollars, preferring instead to talk about making high quality buildings, his racing cars and the creation of the great Queensland dream.
But let's get the answer to the uncomfortable question out of the way early; the worth of the Juniper Group this year, as rated by BRW Magazine's Queensland rich list for families, is estimated to be $550 million. The amount, as it stands, is not important. What is astounding is how quickly it has been achieved and how the Juniper brand has spread from the Sunshine Coast to Far North Queensland and to the Gold Coast in the blink of an eye. Company growth has been no less than phenomenal. In 2006, BRR valued the group's worth at $335 million, then $444 million last year and now it easily surpasses the half-billion mark. Its signature building, Soul in Surfers Paradise, is about to be thrust into the sky - all 77 storeys of it - at a time when the doubters in the building industry have pulled in their horns and decided to sit on their money. Not Shaun Juniper and his father Graeme.
Virtually unknown on the Gold Coast until only a few years ago when the Soul project was announced, father and son had spent years building a private empire without the help of shareholders and without the hype of publicly listed companies. Despite his enthusiasm for the burgeoning business, family considerations always come first for Shaun Juniper. He is careful to draw a line between life in the office and life at home. He is married to Samantha, formerly of Darwin and a past student of Ipswich Girls Grammar School, and they have a son, Flynn, 4. "Samantha is very supportive. She can see the passion I have for the business," he says. And after hours, his business partner father Graeme becomes plain `Dad'. "Both wives (Graeme's and Shaun's) banned us from talking business 24 hours a day, as we're inclined to do if we're not pulled up. "So if we're sitting around at a family barbecue, business isn't mentioned and Dad becomes Dad, not Graeme," says Juniper. Juniper has friends all around the world as a result of his business and motorsport contacts, and mixes regularly with the rich and powerful in both government and corporate circles.
But mostly the Junipers are quiet tycoons who, by their actions, not words, attract public notice. Their Soul building, which happened to attract the highest price for a penthouse in Australia two years ago of $16.85 million (taking in three storeys, thank you very much), is about to become the signature building in central Surfers Paradise.