After the AMA saga I thought whatever they do to me, I can survive it. From that point on, I wanted to be my own self and I didn't want the world to be chasing me and sticking pins in me. If I can put up with that, I can put up with anything people throw at me.
Dr Edmund Bateman
Primary Health Care
Primary Health Care operates the largest medical centre business in Australia, with forty sites around the country. The centres provide access to general practitioners, specialists, pharmacy, pathology, radiology, occupational therapy and paramedical services. Following the takeover of Symbion Health, Primary also operates significant stand-alone pathology and radiology businesses. The company reported a net profit of $57.4 million for the 2007-08 financial year.
Investors have received a return of 638 percent during Dr Edmund Bateman's time as CEO, between 1998 and 2008, compared with a 207 percent return by the All Ordinaries Accumulation Index.
Dr Edmund Bateman
Dr Edmund Bateman is a colossus in the Australian medical industry. In many ways he is to medical business what Kerry Packer was to the media industry in the 1970s and 1980s. Like Packer, Dr Bateman has a hard exterior and a reputation for being tough and uncompromising, yet charming. It takes a game person to go into battle with the doctor. Dr Bateman's sons describe their father's leadership style as 'his way or the highway', and while their father laughs at this suggestion, there is little confusion about who is in charge at the stunningly successful medical company, Primary Health Care. In many ways Dr Bateman is a visionary. Under his leadership Primary has changed the way medicine is practised in Australia. This change has not come easy, with many of the medical fraternity stinging in their criticism of Dr Bateman and his style. However, the public have voted with their feet, beating a path to Primary's string of medical centres across the country.
Virtually every GP in Dr Bateman's home town of Sydney has a story about him and his no-nonsense style of implementing the company's business plan. The investment community has applauded his direct style and his ability to deliver returns. After watching the doctor give a presentation some years back, one cheeky Sydney funds manager nicknamed him Dr Evil, after the character in the Mike Myers' Austin Powers films. Dr Bateman is a stern-looking man who, on the face of it, has little time for people who ask impertinent questions and who have the temerity to question his decision making.
Dr Bateman shares a number of other Packer traits. While Packer liked to gamble at casinos around the globe, Dr Bateman has shown a willingness to bet all on his business ventures. Whether it is his farming ventures, revolutionary medical clinics, personal investing or recent successful bid to buy the much larger Symbion Health, Dr Bateman has a propensity to take enormous risks.
In our interview, many of these characteristics were not on show, and it became clear that his reputation as a businessman in a steel suit is more fiction than reality. Dr Bateman comes across as an extremely honest and affable person, and it was a pleasure to be in his company. He reveals his childhood and the lasting impact it has had on him. He also talks at length about his fear of failing and letting his many shareholders, doctors and employees down. There have been many times when Dr Bateman would have been happy to be a farmer in rural New South Wales, but due to fate and his insatiable appetite to take risks, he has pushed on and now believes he will rest only when buried. His flirtations with financial ruin have numbered many over the years, and his willingness to take each threatening situation head on, despite fearing a disastrous outcome, is inspiring.
In short, Dr Bateman has revolutionised the age-old pro