In the mid-nineties, the two initially had only telephonic contact. Richard Pratt and his Swiss friend, businessman Peter Riggenbach from Muttenz, were on their way to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, when Peter told him that he had met a Swiss entrepreneur that wanted to produce pallets, as well as houses out of corrugated cardboard. Already more than half-way to Davos, the two made a U-turn and drove back to Romanshorn, where Fredy Iseli’s new business center was located, to see what he had invented.
Towards the end of 2000, Fredy Iseli had a business meeting in Australia and tried to get in contact with Richard Pratt. As it was not possible, to make contact before the flight to Sydney, Iseli’s wife Claudette was able to arrange a meeting with Richard Pratt’s secretariat during his flight to Australia.
Since Richard Pratt was also in Sydney upon Fredy Iseli’s arrival, they arranged to meet for breakfast at the hotel the following day. At this meeting Fredy Iseli showed the fourth richest Australian at the time, some pictures and television documentaries concerning the construction of the first prototype house at the SWAP company, a company established by Fredy Iseli in Frankenberg near Chemnitz, this being shortly before it became the target of an unfriendly takeover.
After about ten minutes Richard Pratt then made the following suggestion: “Come work for me. I’ll pay you $500’000 a year!” Fredy Iseli answered: As you hire, you fire – I’ve never worked for someone else before! The two got along well and Richard Pratt took Fredy Iseli’s reply with an appropriate dose of humor.
After breakfast Richard asked Fredy to pack his things and to be ready by five o’clock, so that his chauffeur could pick him up at the hotel. Together they flew in Pratt’s private jet to Melbourne, which was of course a great privilege and an unforgettable experience for Fredy.
Upon arrival in Melbourne, Richard offered Fredy to stay at his “house”. For the architect, Fredy Iseli, this was a very special experience, as he had never seen such an enormous residence in his whole life. The original house was built in the 19th century by the then Archbishop, in Art Noveau style and was extended by the Pratt’s with a modern glass and steel addition. Richard offered Fredy to spend the night in his son’s “room”, which was the whole upper floor.
The next day Richard showed his visitor the world’s largest corrugated cardboard factory and introduced him to his team.
The encounter with Richard Pratt gave Fredy Iseli the courage and perseverance to tackle the ECOCELL project in the first place. Not only that, but he also infected Fredy with the positive “virus” of making houses out of cardboard.
His son Anthony Pratt expanded the company even further, with focus on the US market. Together with the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Anthony Pratt was able to present his new plant in Ohio to the US President Donald Trump.