Tim Gurner, whose comments about the need to increase unemployment to decrease workers’ “arrogance” drew furious backlash online, apologized in a LinkedIn post Thursday.
“At the AFR Property Summit this week I made some remarks about unemployment and productivity in Australia that I deeply regret and were wrong,” the multimillionaire wrote.
Gurner, who previously stoked controversy for suggesting that avocado toast was the reason millennials could not afford to buy homes, has an estimated net worth of 912 million AUD as of 2023 (roughly $587 million USD), according to the Financial Review.
His original comments on Tuesday went viral on social media, drawing condemnation from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and others.
“We need to see unemployment rise. Unemployment has to jump 40, 50% in my view,” the Australian property developer told the Financial Review Property Summit audience. “We need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around.”
But it seems Gurner has since taken a step back, writing Thursday that his remarks were “deeply insensitive.”
“There are clearly important conversations to have in this environment of high inflation, pricing pressures on housing and rentals due to a lack of supply, and other cost of living issues,” Gurner said. “My comments were deeply insensitive to employees, trades, and families across Australia who are affected by these cost-of-living pressures and job losses.”
He continued: “I want to be clear: I do appreciate that when someone loses their job it has a profound impact on them and their families and I sincerely regret that my words did not convey empathy for those in that situation.”
Gurner’s comments reportedly caused angst among some of his own employees as well.
A senior manager at Saint Haven network—a new wellness and club brand set up by Gurner—rushed to quell fears from employees, according to the Financial Review.
The manager wrote in a memo that Gurner’s comments about increasing unemployment “were in no way directed at our teams” and said “his care and love for both the Gurner Group and Saint Haven team is immense.”
The manager also pointed to “Turkey, Greece, and parts of South America to truly understand how significant inflation increases and housing shortages have very real impacts on society.”
If unemployment in Australia rose 50% as Gurner suggested, nearly 270,000 people would lose their jobs.