Dave Hughes was a surprise attendee at this year’s Block auctions – with a paddle in hand, suggesting he was interested in at least one of the properties on offer.
But Hughes kept quiet as the auctions turned into a tense duel between two multi-millionaires with Block history: serial Block buyer Danny Wallis, and the man who bought last year’s winning property, Adrian Portelli.
In the end, Portelli emerged victorious, buying three out of five Block homes for a total spend of $12.4 million.
The first auction was the biggest of the day, with Steph and Gian’s house racing out of the gates with an opening bid from Wallis some $650,000 over the reserve.
Incredibly, Hughes, who was standing near Wallis and his “people,” claimed on-air today that the bid had been rather a large error on Wallis’ part.
“He has meant to say $2,999,000 and he said $3,999,000 – that was a mistake from Danny. That mistake got the ball rolling,” he revealed on 2DayFM’s Hughesy, Ed & Erin this morning.
Appearing as a guest on the program, Portelli confirmed that his rival had “stuffed up” his opening bid: “I saw him backtrack, realise what he’d done, and I thought I’d put the nail in the coffin.”
From there, the auction took another dramatic turn when a young woman in the crowd collapsed and was taken away in an ambulance to receive medical attention.
It was later revealed the woman was a registered bidder on Queensland couple Leah and Ash’s home – later on in the finale, with one of their interested buyers in hospital, the pair chose to pass in their home before it reached reserve.
Hughes revealed he played a key role as the action unfolded.
“I actually caught the woman who collapsed – me and one other bloke, the bloke from consumer affairs. I was the one who stopped the auction,” he said.
“I said, ‘We’ve got to stop the auction, this woman has collapsed.’”
Portelli also revealed the tactic behind his bizarre choice to bid against himself during Eliza and Liberty’s auction, repeatedly raising the house price by $100,000 despite already having the highest bid.
“It was a bit of a tactic to scare everyone off so we don’t get into a bidding war … it was more just a chance to have a bit of fun and showpony,” he admitted.
He said he was “out to prove a point” with his major cash splash at this year’s auctions, after being “absolutely shredded by the public” after last year’s finale.
Portelli’s arrival at last year’s auctions, where he bought Omar and Oz’s house for a massive $1.58 million over reserve, led to viewer speculation his purchase had been pre-organised to deliver that team a win.
Portelli fiercely denied those claims, and later offered the house as a prize via his online lottery business.
And while Hughes didn’t bid on any of this year’s Block houses, he is holding on to a tidy investment after his involvement in a prior Block auction.
Hughes paid $3.067 million for the five-bedroom home in Elsternwick, built by contestants Josh and Elyse in the 2017 season of Nine’s long-running reno show.
After weathering much speculation he’d overpaid for the property, he revealed last week that a recent valuation put the house at around $5 million now.