Taupo’s posh Huka Lodge set to be sold to American private equity firm

What do Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Edward, Tilda Swindon, Donald Sutherland, Joan Collins, Michael Douglas, Sir Peter Jackson, Sam Neill and Michael J Fox all have in common?

Answer: they’ve all stayed at a famous New Zealand lodge, now being sold.

This place has been voted one of the most romantic tourism venues and has hosted some of the world’s richest and most famous people. But now an American private equity business has won Government consent to buy the high-profile kiwi tourist resort and it has big expansion plans.

More staff will be employed and the facility expanded to add capacity.

The Overseas Investment Office yesterday announced that a fund 79 per cent controlled by United States interests can now buy Huka Lodge.

LLNZ Huka Lodge can proceed with the purchase for an amount kept secret.

The decision comes after a long-running dispute between businessmen Michael Kidd and Alex van Heeren. The two have been battling in court over assets for decades. The dispute culminated in the Court of Appeal’s appointment of receivers to Worldwide Leisure, the company which owns Huka Lodge, in August 2019.

Van Heeren and Beattie Rickman Trustee Company as trustees of the Huka Trust New Zealand were listed in yesterday’s decision as the vendors and the deal was allowed partly because it would benefit this country, the decision said.

It needed to go to the office because it involves sensitive land due it to being on the riverfront and the although the OIO issued the decision, the actual decision-makers were the Minister for Land Information and the Associate Minister of Finance.

Damien O’Connor is the Minister for Land Information and David Parker and Megan Woods are associate finance ministers.

“The applicant is a subsidiary of a US private equity fund which invests exclusively in travel and leisure investments and intends to acquire a freehold interest in approximately 11.96ha of land at Taupo,” the decision said.

“The Huka Lodge business is operated on the land. The applicant intends to continue operation of the lodge business and expand the main lodge and develop new spa and gym facilities.

The main benefits to New Zealand include the creation of about four new permanent full-time roles and 25 temporary full-time roles.

An increase in export receipts due to the applicant’s extensive and established distribution network was also cited in the consent.

Advancement of Tourism NZ’s premium sector strategy and the introduction into New Zealand of additional investment were further reasons the deal is allowed.

The buyer is 7 per cent Chinese owned but other shareholders come from the world’s top tax havens:the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Jersey and the Channel Islands.

Shareholders are also from Singapore and Luxembourg.

Lawyers involved in the application were Catherine Reid and Paul Farry.

The lodge said it is only operating from Thursdays to Sundays. It says it has accommodation currently in 26 suites, nestled along the banks of the Waikato River, upstream from Huka Falls.

It is advertising packages from January to September of $1300/person per night in its junior lodge suite on a double or twin occupancy basis.

The lodge is regarded as one of the most high-end places to stay in this country.

Source: Read Full Article