The fate of this year’s contestants on The Block largely rested in the hands of two eccentric multi-millionaires during Sunday night’s finale; men so obscenely rich one could make several could make $100,000 bids against himself without breaking a sweat.
But the gauche displays of wealth left some viewers cold, once again asking if The Block has lost touch with its roots after 19 seasons on air.
For some years now, millionaire Danny Wallis has been the man to impress for contestants hoping to make a tidy profit on their homes. Wallis had tickled viewers and infuriated auctioneers during previous The Block auctions, with his love of making confusing, super-specific bids down to the cent.
Last year, a new odd rich dude entered the fray: ‘Lambo Guy’ Adrian Portelli, who bought Omar and Oz’s house for a sky-high price to deliver them a then-record-breaking $1.68m profit.
And last night, viewers watched as Portelli and Wallis were locked in a bidding battle across several properties.
Wallis was up to his usual tricks, leaving the auctioneers struggling to keep up while he dropped head-scratching bids like “Three million, nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety hundred dollars … and ninety nine cents.”
But Portelli had some bizarre auction tactics of his own, bidding against himself not once but twice during sisters Eliza and Liberty’s auction. Both times, he raised the price by $100,000 – apparently, just because he could.
“That’s … never happened before,” said a dumbfounded Scott Cam, while the auctioneer called it “the strangest auction I’ve ever done.”
Those showboating antics meant huge financial windfalls for the contestants whose properties Portelli bought this year – three in total, for a combined spend of $12.4 million.
Young Sydney couple Steph and Gian fared best, breaking all Block records with an astonishing $1.75m season win. Eliza and Liberty also became instant millionaires, making a profit of $1.05m, and Kyle and Leslie scored a respectable $130,000 profit when Portelli bought their house in a less hotly contested auction.
But the two couples who couldn’t spark the interest of either of these duelling multi-millionaires fared worse: Kristy and Brett’s property limped over reserve to give them meagre winnings of $65,000, while Leah and Ash pulled their house from auction as it crawled towards the reserve, scared of suffering a similar fate.
Which begs the question – are these the more indicative Block auction results? Take two incredibly rich men with a love of televised auction showboating out of the mix, and would everyone have walked away with next to nothing?
Viewers expressed their frustrations on social media as the auctions unfolded:
Keen to give contestants the best shot at winning a life-changing amount of money, the show has leaned into the interest from these super-rich men in recent seasons.
Wallis has even been offered up as a mid-season prize, with contestants competing for a chance to take him to dinner and quiz him about what he looks for in a home. And this season, couples tried to appeal to Portelli’s famed love of sports cars with luxury mod cons like a driveway vehicle turntable.
This year’s Block winners Steph and Gian said they were “overwhelmed” by their massive win after the weekend’s auctions, telling 9Entertainment they had a “big” project planned with their $1.75 million winnings.
“It’s going to clear our debts in Sydney, it’s going to really set us up for the next stage,” Gian told the publication.
“There’s big things in the pipeline,” he added, with Steph quickly echoing: “Big things.”
As for Portelli, as with last year’s purchase, he says he plans to use all three Block properties as fodder for his lucrative online lottery business, offering them up as prizes for punters who pay to enter his competition draws. With an estimated net worth of $350m, you’d have to assume the man feels this $12m auction day was another savvy business move.