Russell Knowles sells Portsea’s clifftop Rovina to Deague family for c$13.5 million off market

Rovina was developed in the early 1960s using materials from grand 20th century Melbourne buildings which were being demolished.


Aged care accommodation entrepreneur Russell Knowles – the father-in-law of Steller co-director Simon Pitard – has sold a distinctive 1960s homestead on Portsea’s clifftop for a speculated $13.5 million.

Rovina at 3808 Point Nepean Road is trading off-market to Camilla Deague, the daughter of veteran developer David, and her husband, Nick Speer.

It is speculated Rovina was constructed using columns from the c1893 Colonial Mutual Life building at 316 Collins Street (left) which was replaced after 1960 with the commercial building known as 330 Collins Street.

The incoming owners plan to renovate the single storey home which was constructed using materials collected by its revered architect Geoffrey Sommers from 20th century Melbourne buildings being demolished 60 years ago.

Mr Knowles acquired the Portsea property in March, 2018, paying horse trainer and plumbing entrepreneur Jonathan Munz $13.8 million at a boardroom auction.

Mr Munz bought it following a public sale campaign two years earlier, spending $10.2 million (then another $500,000 on a boat shed).

The clifftop Portsea plot overlooks Weeroona Bay.

Other prior owners include James O’Connor, who ran Mercedes Benz car dealership Kew Star Motors, and Décor founder Brian Davis.

Rovina at 3808 Point Nepean Road, Portsea

West of Portsea Hotel, near The Cutting, the Mediterranean inspired Rovina includes five bedrooms, three living areas, a triple car garage and fishing room built around an internal courtyard with a pool.

On a 1990 square metre rectangle shaped parcel it also contains a smaller cottage.

The bulk of the improvements are constructed with brick and bluestone.

It was reported in 2016 that large columns in a terrace overlooking Weeroona Bay (visible in image top and above, right) could have come from the c1893 Colonial Mutual Life building at 316 Collins Street, parts of which Mr Sommers had delivered to his home after Whelan the Wrecker demolished it in 1960.

Mr Knowles sold Rovina with the boat shed – which alone could be worth about $1 million based on the sale of F16 at nearby Fishermans Beach in February.

Mr Pitard co-directed Steller, a developer which went into receivership in high profile circumstances last July.

Four months ago he is said to have sold a contemporary home at 32 William Buckley Way, Sorrento following an unusual auction shortened by a heckler.

Marketed as a mortgagee sale, it passed in for $2.655 million – understood to be well over the guide price indicated in the statement of information.

In 2017, Steller acquired an interest in the town’s high-profile Continental Hotel redevelopment, construction of which ceased last April, not long before the builder collapsed.

Mr Knowles, along with his brothers, John and Graham, sold their Arcare aged care business to Stockland for $329 million in 2007.

John and his wife Carol are active Mornington Peninsula investors, too – last May the latter paying $4.07 million at auction for a shop at 54-56 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento – near two development sites owned by Lindsay Fox, including one he acquired last June.

Another Mornington Peninsula trophy for the Deague family

David Deague has owned some of Mornington Peninsula’s highest-profile homes including the landmark Ilyuka in Point King Road, Portsea, which sold in 2010 for $26 million – a Victorian watermark price for the next six years.

In 2015, he set a record for a Sorrento dwelling outlaying $21.5 million on a Guildford Bell designed home on a 9200 square metre block also on Point Nepean Road (this site has since made way for two family residences understood to be for his sons, Jonathan and Will, who followed into the construction business).

The developer’s first high profile Mornington Peninsula purchase was 40 years ago when he picked up the neighbouring historic Colwyn for more than $1 million – the first seven figure deal in the holiday hamlet.

Camilla Deague worked at the family’s former Art Series Hotel business while Nick Speer is an executive with Riverside Asia Partners.

The five bedroom Rovina is set to be renovated.
The view from the waterfront parcel between Portsea Hotel and Point Nepean National Park.
A bluestone path leads to a self contained cottage.
A dining room (above) with access to a private internal courtyard (bottom).

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Marc Pallisco

A former property analyst and print journalist, Marc is the publisher of