A childhood dream of working in the racing industry has become a reality for accountant Adam Tims. Today his company, Stable Financial, has a client list of major Australian and International bloodstock investors, and Adam also offers his time and expertise to help industry bodies such as TBV, Aushorse and TBA.
It has been full speed ahead for Adam Tims since he began combining his accountancy skills with his passion for the bloodstock industry about 15 years ago. Now, as the sole practitioner of the Melbourne based Stable Financial, which incorporates Stable Connect and Stable Legal, what was a childhood dream has become a brilliantly shining reality.
As head of the highly respected Stable Financial’s taxation, accounting and business advisory division Adam quickly amassed experience in the equine industry from a management and taxation perspective. This has enabled him to draw his clientele from owners, breeders, syndicates, trainers, jockeys and horse industry associations. It is a testimony to his ability to perform that his clients are spread around Australia as well as throughout the world of racing.
Adam has also built up a long list of “credits” in racing administration, which has evolved from a decade-long tenure on the committee of the Victorian Jockeys’ Association. He is currently contributing his expertise and know-how to the Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria committee and as treasurer of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia and Aushorse Marketing. This is providing him with an insider’s perspective, and from that advantageous position he is very positive about the future.
“We are now seeing more of a focus on a national approach to the conduct of the industry with the formation of Racing Australia,” he said. “This will further help to bring many aspects of our significant industry closer together for the benefit of everyone concerned.
“At the same time there is no doubt the industry is steadily continuing to become more international as the Spring Carnival in Melbourne and The Championships in Sydney have shown.
Significantly, yearling sales on the eastern seaboard have been up by about 20% this year and this has come about through increased investment from overseas as well as a lot of domestic spending.
“There is undoubtedly a changing landscape with syndicators and joint venture partners gaining in prominence, and that is something which is encouraging more people to become actively involved. It has also been fascinating for me to see the way the industry is embracing the rapid advancements being made in technology, accounting software, communication tools and social media. This is having a big impact.
“You can follow people and get a quick snapshot through Twitter of what is happening in the industry on a daily or even an hourly basis. That is really helpful when you have to keep up with what is happening in the market place, the taxation office and so on, but for me the most satisfying thing of all is that you are working with so many great people. That’s what I have always loved most about the industry.”
It was during Adam’s days at St Bede’s College, at Mentone, that this immersion into the thoroughbred industry had its foundation. A bayside suburb situated some 20km south east of Melbourne, Mentone was once the site of a proprietary racetrack, and the surrounding area was once home for many of Victoria’s most distinguished racing families. Among Adam’s classmates were Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra who now have a most successful training partnership based at Flemington.
As he was growing up, his parents Andrew and Kathy, would often take him to the races. However, Adam says it was going to St Bede’s and meeting Mathew and Simon, “as well as some other guys interested in the industry,” that really sparked his interest.
His schoolmates also included Patrick Duffy, whose father Michael held the seat of Holt in the Australian Government’s House of Representatives from 1980 to 1996 and is a former chairman of Racing Victoria. “Michael has been a valuable sounding board over the years,” he said. Casting his mind back to his formative years, Adam says his earliest memory of racing is the victory of the Bart Cummings-trained Hyperno, with Harry White aboard, in the 1979 Melbourne Cup. “Another race I can remember is What a Nuisance’s win in the Melbourne Cup. Around Melbourne Cup time I’d always go through the form of the 24 runners. I’d have a pick and Dad would put 50 cents each way on whatever I selected, and What a Nuisance was one of those.”
In that era John Hawkes had his stables at the Epsom Training Centre, a few kilometres closer to Melbourne than Mentone, which proved to be a magnet for Mathew and Simon. “As they were ending their years at St Bede’s Mat and Simon would work in the stables and occasionally I’d go with them,” Adam said.
On leaving St. Bede’s, Adam worked for a year with an uncle who had an asbestos removal business, before going to the University of Melbourne to study for a Bachelor of Commerce degree. “During the three years I was at uni you would have only 12 contact hours a week. That gave me time to jump on a float to Ballarat or Bendigo, or wherever they were going.
“It was mainly with the Hawkes’ horses, or those of Gerald Ryan who was also at Epsom and had Mat and Simon working for him. By then I loved being around the horses and going to the races.”
On completing his degree in 1995 Adam joined Pitcher Partners, a highly respected Melbourne accounting firm. “I was fortunate to work with the firm’s principal Ron Pitcher, who taught me a lot including the importance of attention to detail,” he said.
Adam also became an avid racegoer, particularly during the spring and autumn carnivals; and a sixmonth stint in London enabled him to see a Grand National Steeple at Aintree and the Derbyat Epsom, won by Oath. Then, as 1999 was coming to a close, chance played a significant role in the direction his life was to take.
“I was listening to the previews on Racing Radio 927 on a Saturday morning and heard an advertisement saying, ‘attention all accountants with a passion for the horse industry’. It was about an opportunity with Martin O’Connor, who bred and raced Fields of Omagh as well as other top horses.
“We were heading towards the beginning of GST in 2000 and Martin was more or less looking for a succession plan for his firm which specialised in the horse industry. I had really been enjoying my time at Pitcher Partners, but it was a unique opportunity for me to join my huge passion for the thoroughbred industry with my professional background.
”Two years into his new association, he and Louise Morris who had been the firm’s manager, became partners with Martin in the business. “It was a little bit daunting at first. You were being introduced to people you knew by name and reputation but hadn’t met before. I’d known Mathew and Simon right from the beginning, but after I’d begun working with Martin I started going to the Melbourne Premier Yearling Sales and the races more frequently as well as becoming involved in the social side.”
Among those he soon became acquainted with were Gerry Ryan, the Liston family of Three Bridges Stud, Adam Sangster, Black Caviar’s breeder Rick Jamieson and “heaps of other people”, many went on to become clients. “Adam has been tremendous with introducing me to people. He really took me under his wing and for more than 10 years now we have worked together.
“Accounting is not normally considered to be an exciting profession, but I found what I was doing in relation to horses and the thoroughbred industry very exciting as well as very enjoyable. I soon came to realise what a people-industry it is and how it is so much a part of the fabric of Australian culture.”
Then five years further on, in 2006, Martin retired. With that Adam and Louise took over the company and adopted the name of Stable Financial. While he concentrated on the thoroughbred industry with 95% of his clients being industry participants, Louise was more focused on the financial planning side. “I was looking after the interests of owners and breeders as well as some trainers and jockeys.
Interestingly I was not the primary accountant for about 50% of my clients so that meant working in with other accountants such as KPMG and PWC. My role was to provide expertise at the table.
“Also, as time has gone by we’ve picked up quite a bit of work for internationals through their need to register in Australia for GST. That has resulted in at least 20% of our client base now being international and we are looking after the interests of horse owners and breeders in England, Ireland, France, South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, the US and New Zealand.
“As an example we were trusted to assist management during the establishment phase after Mr Pan Sutong’s Goldin Farms had purchased Lindsay Park Stud in South Australia from David Hayes. Our role included the introduction of internal accounting and operating controls and procedures. The work that generated helped keep me very busy in the last calendar year.
“Mr Pan Sutong has massive plans for the property and that is an illustration of the increasing internationalisation of the industry in Australia. It is a side which is continuing to grow now that the Chinese and the Americans, in particular, are playing a bigger role.
“More recently one of my longest standing clients, the Woodard family, sold their Romsey property to Spendthrift Farm, owned by American B. Wayne Hughes. The Woodards have worked tirelessly for 30 years to build Yallambee into one of Victoria’s most respected breeding farms and it is great to know Rick and Christie will continue to manage the property on behalf of the new owners.”
While always busy in the office Adam has, along the way, become deeply immersed in the administrative side of the industry. A member of Victoria Racing Club, Melbourne Racing Club and the Thoroughbred Club of Australia he began doing pro bono work for various entities.
“I was on the Victorian Jockeys’ Association, with Des O’Keeffe, for 10 years from 2003. I enjoyed that because it was really eye-opening to gain first hand knowledge of how things worked from a jockey’s viewpoint.”
Over the years since he has become a committee member of Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria, which he says has a “fantastic make up” with the likes of Adam Sangster, Cathy Hains, Toby Liston and James O’Brien being on the board.
“We are really doing some great things,” he says of TBV, “The VOBIS Gold and Super VOBIS breeding assist schemes are providing exceptional incentives for everyone involved.”
Also through the encouragement of former Coolmore Australia chairman Ken Barry, Adam has become company secretary and treasurer of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia and Aushorse Marketing.
“Ken is a client of mine and I regard him as a mentor,” Adam said. “He suggested I would be valuable in the role as treasurer in those bodies, and that began in 2012. From my point of view it is really helpful because it means I am at the coal face regarding important developments in the industry.
“For instance, recently we had an issue where the Australian Taxation Office was not going to allow horses to be sold to Asia GST-free, when previously they could. I was involved in helping obtain a favourable outcome for that so we could remain competitive with other countries as far as selling horses was concerned. There are always issues arising at federal or state level where you are working with government representatives for the betterment of the future of the industry.”
It was not long before Adam ventured into racehorse ownership, with the most notable of the horses he has raced being a Rhythm (USA) gelding named Moderato (NZ).
“John Aubrey, who is a bloodstock taxation consultant in New Zealand, had bred Moderato and asked whether I could find some people to go in him,” he said. “I did, and he went into training with Mat and Simon. Moderato proved to be a ripper, winning six races including one at Sandown. He gave us a lot of fun and so far he’s been the best horse I’ve raced.”
Now all those connected with a Stable Financial Syndicate have their fingers crossed about a three yearold by Darci Brahma from the Centaine mare Trigon Lass. Syndicated for SFS by Brad Spicer, the horse is named Ancient Bull and he won at his debut at Geelong in August last year.
“He’s only had three starts and we are all hoping he’ll develop into something,” Adam said. “Brad, of Spicer Thoroughbreds, and Matchem Racing who are reasonably new guys on the block, are authorised under our licence held by Stable Connect.
“I am good friends with Matthew Cain who is a committee member of the Melbourne Racing Club and was instrumental in starting up Matchem. Matchem is using DNA genetics and the aerobic capacity of horses to make selections. The first horse we syndicated for them is this season’s brilliant Turffontein two year-old Fontiton.”
During the period Moderato was racing and his business activities were flourishing, Adam began courting Kate McKinnon a sister of racing television personality Jo McKinnon. He and Kate were married in 2010 and now have two children Archie, three, and Harvey who was born in October last year.
“Kate was a very good equestrian rider and won the Junior Garryowen, which is one of the most prestigious equestrian trophies in Australia,” Adam said. “The McKinnons are very enthusiastic horse people and Kate, Jo and their mother Gerda would go to events almost every weekend as well as nearly every capital city Royal Show to compete.
“At the time I met Kate the McKinnons had an agistment property where Mick Price, Danny O’Brien and others spelled their horses. I don’t think it hurt that I would help feeding up 30 or 40 horses and was getting my hands dirty.”
About two years after his marriage Adam further expanded his business horizons when he invited Tim Johnson, a member of one of Victoria’s best known racing families, to invest in and further develop Stable Connect.
“The primary objective with Stable Connect is to assist our clients in three key categories of syndication. They are with stallions, broodmares and racehorses. This covers a full range of management, consulting and support services to thoroughbred breeding and racing syndicates.”
Subsequently Tim, who returned to the law after running Ealing Park Stud at Euroa, for many years, established Stable Legal as part of the group’s operations. In that capacity Tim is able to provide specialised legal advice on all aspects of the thoroughbred industry as well as advice on the practical side of the business. Another development has been the launch by Stable Connect of the Swettenham Stud Breeding and Racing Ventures in conjunction with Adam Sangster.
“The first of those attracted 35 investors who were given the experience of breeding in a way similar to that of racing syndicates,” he said. “The feedback from those involved has been tremendous and I believe there is a place for encouraging people to develop an interest in breeding at a time when the foal crop is declining. Other studs are now showing interest in forming these syndicates and we are looking to do more of them in the future.”
With their activities diverging, Louise and Adam decided to go their separate ways in 2012. As a result he became the sole practitioner and sole partner in Stable Financial. “When that occurred I was fortunate to have a fantastic, dedicated team around me. Our manager Jason Brown is a rare talent; Gemma Cameron has been a loyal and trusted international accountant since 2001; and Harry Woodard who is a son of Rick and Christie Woodard, has been with us for about seven years.
“Also two highly capable people in Paul Scanlon and Joel Patching have used Stable Financial as a stepping stone. Paul is now chief financial officer of Pakenham Race Club and Joel is CFO of Three Bridges Stud. We are pleased to know we are creating opportunities for people like Paul and Joel to work in other areas in an industry that we all love.”
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