Eamon Cleary Will Be Greatly Missed

Father of eight, Eamon Cleary has died at his horse stud in Kentucky. The oldest of a large Irish family, Mr Cleary left school at 11 to work on his father's farm, later marrying at 24.  The last public accounting of his financial accomplishments listed his wealth at $1.2 billion, with a range of assets across four continents.

Eamon Cleary moved to New Zealand in about 1994, using the proceeds to invest in farming, building a fortune converting sheep farms to dairy farms.  While he indulged his love for breeding racehorses, he did not live an extravagant lifestyle.  For a time he owned the 22,000 hectare Coronet Peak Station, although last year he sold it to Robert 'Mutt' Lange.

This wonderful man, fabulous father, and generous lover of New Zealand, it's land, and it's racehorses, will be much missed.

Sir George Fistonich's Villa Maria named New Zealand Winery of the Year

Villa Maria Estate has been named New Zealand Winery of the Year by WINE Magazine in China. Six well respected wine personalities formed the judging panel for these awards including Debra Meiburg MW, Dennis Lin (wine writer), Ji Yang (wine writer & educator), Ronny Lau (wine judge), Bai Chang (wine judge) and Qi Shaoren (wine educator).

WINE Magazine established these awards to help consumers identify category leaders. New Zealand’s most awarded winery received the top award in the New Zealand category given their market share and influence in the Chinese wine market.

WINE Magazine is the first wine focused consumer publication in China with the aim to be the most authoritative professional magazine in this emerging market.

Villa Maria has exported to China since the inception of Summergate Fine Wines and Spirits in 2000 and was the first brand they carried. The 100% New Zealand owned company is placing a high degree of focus into the Chinese market, as it is their most rapidly growing export market. In 2010, Villa Maria appointed their first dedicated Asia Market Manager, Charlotte Read, and in 2011 they appointed their first China based employee reflecting their commitment to growing the presence of New Zealand wine and Villa Maria in this fast growing market.

Wildfire, Co-Founded by Ex-Pat New Zealander Victoria Ransom Bought By Google

Co-founders, Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard, launched Wildfire just four years ago. Since then, they and their team have built a service that helps businesses like Virgin, Cirque du Soleil, Gilt Group and Spotify manage their social efforts across numerous social websites. Wildfire is a platform for brands to manage their pages, apps, tweets, videos, sponsorships, ads, promotions and more, all in one place with, according to Wildfire, the ultimate goal better and fresher content, and more meaningful interactions.

Peter and Pam Vela Guests Of The Queen At Royal Ascot

Following in the footsteps of the success the New Zealand Wine Industry, the New Zealand Thoroughbred Industry is celebrating success at the highest level on the international stage, with the success of two New Zealand born and bred racehorses at the world's most famed Racing Carnival, Royal Ascot. Equine superstars Little Bridge and So You Think delivered a significant boost to the New Zealand Thoroughbred Industry, plying their wares with aplomb this week in front of a global audience of millions and the pomp and pageantry of the Royal Family, headed by racing's number one fan, Her Majesty the Queen.

Winning the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (2000m), Waikato-raised So You Think denied the Queen a fairytale victory of her own, defeating her classy galloper Carlton House. The Champion galloper has now won ten races at the elite Group I level and has travelled the globe after initially racing in Australia , venturing to England , Ireland , France , Dubai and the United States in the past 12 months.

Likewise, the opening day success of sprinter Little Bridge in the King's Stand Stakes (1000m) - who is these days domiciled in Hong Kong - showed the versatility of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeding Industry, with both speed and stamina in our arsenal.

Both Little Bridge and So You Think were bred and raised in the lush pastures of the Waikato , before being sold at public auction at New Zealand Bloodstock's world class facility at Karaka for $9,000 and $110,000 respectively.

Like so many of New Zealand's finest thoroughbreds, Little Bridge and So You Think were exported to race for lucrative prize money on offer abroad, with So You Think set to commence stallion duties later this season, having been secured by Irish based breeding consortium Coolmore for a reported A$60 million.

The New Zealand Thoroughbred Industry exports in excess of 1600 horses annually with an estimated net worth of $135 million. The Thoroughbred Breeding and Racing Industry contributes some $791.6 million to the New Zealand economy and provides employment for more than 30,000.

Commenting on the success of Little Bridge and So You Think at Royal Ascot, New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing Chief Executive Andrew Birch said: "It goes a long way to confirming the class of our thoroughbreds on the world stage - make no mistake this is a monumental achievement. This is probably the most significant week in the history of New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeding and the spin-offs from the global exposure could be massive for our industry. This is our World Cup victory."

"We have a natural advantage when it comes to breeding thoroughbreds, given our climate and our cost of production is vastly cheaper than the majority of our rivals. Meanwhile our horsemen and women are first class and substantial investment has been put into ensuring we breed to the world's best bloodlines."

On track to revel in the triumph was Cambridge couple Des & Janet Hawkins, breeders of Little Bridge, while prominent New Zealand breeder and owner Peter Vela ONZM and his wife Pam were guests of the Queen as part of the Royal Procession on Day 1 of the five-day carnival. Vela is also the Co-Owner of New Zealand Bloodstock and Vela Fishing with his brother Philip.

Larry Ellison's Oracle AC72 Wing Reaches Pier 80

The 12-story-tall wingsail and hull crossbeams for the first of Oracle Team USA’s two AC72 yachts aimed at the 2013 America’s Cup in San Francisco were delivered to the team today. The components arrived in Oakland from New Zealand on the Cap Vilano by shipping partner Hamburg Sud before being delivered to the team’s base at Pier 80 on the west side of San Francisco Bay.

“It’s a major step in the course of our campaign to win the America’s Cup again,” said Jimmy Spithill, the youngest skipper to have won the America’s Cup.

Due to the length and height of the load, the top and bottom halves of the 130-foot (40m) long wingsail were trucked through Oakland to Interstate 880 southwards to San Jose. A northerly route on the I-280 followed before arriving at Pier 80 in South San Francisco.

The smaller crossbeams, which will link the two hulls of the AC72 catamaran, were trucked on a more direct route across the Bay Bridge to Pier 80. They will be assembled with the two hulls currently under construction at Pier 80.

The wing and crossbeams were constructed by Core Builders Composites in Warkworth, New Zealand. Under competition rules, the hulls must be built in the country a team represents.

When joined together, the wingsail-powered AC72 will have a speed potential of 40 knots (46mph/74kph). “I guarantee it will stop the traffic,” predicted Spithill when the boat goes testing on the Bay.

Under America’s Cup cost-capping rules, teams can’t launch their AC72s before July 1, and Oracle Team USA will have its boat sailing in August to start more than two months of testing on San Francisco Bay.

“After the hundreds of hours of design and thousands of man-hours of construction, it’s a significant milestone to see these components become reality,” said design team member Dirk Kramers, who observed the arrival of the components with other members of the design team.

Dolphin Talk

Took the girls sailing last weekend… Two Dolphins swam with the boat for 20-30mins…

Sienna & Marlana were squealing like you’d never believe…. Which must of sounded like ‘Dolphin’ talk to the Dolphins!

We we’re doing 8plus knots under sail and it seemed like the Dolphins were just having a blast with the girls… the girls were sitting on the pulpit and the Dolphins remained below them…. The girls will never forget last week end!

Peter Thiel partners with NZVIF to invest in New Zealand

A $40 million New Zealand-based venture capital fund has been established involving a partnership between the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures. Valar has been operating since 2010 with the current investment round closing on January 1 of this year. Peter Thiel is a prominent United States technology investor. He co-founded and was CEO of PayPal before he sold it to eBay, and was the first outside investor in Facebook. Valar Ventures provides growth capital to early-stage New Zealand technology companies for the development of technology and expansion into overseas markets.

NZVIF chief executive Franceska Banga said the partnership brings not only new capital but also deep experience in developing world-leading technology companies and significant networks into the United States and international markets.

“Peter Thiel is one of the world’s most successful technology investors. He and his team bring a considerable track record of expertise and resources. For young New Zealand technology companies, Valar Ventures’ presence in the New Zealand market is a significant opportunity. “Alongside a scarcity of investment capital, the biggest challenge facing early-stage New Zealand technology companies is breaking into international markets. For web-based technology companies especially, the major market is the United States. That is where Valar Ventures’ networks – whether in Silicon Valley or on Wall Street – will be significant.

“Valar Ventures also brings considerable experience to bear on behalf of their portfolio companies. Their team has been through every stage of the start-up process, from inception to IPO, and they have the financial resources to fund companies throughout their growth stages.

“With NZVIF and other New Zealand investors, such as investment company Rangatira, participating in the Valar Ventures fund, we will retain a New Zealand stake in these businesses as they look to build an offshore presence and become international companies.” Thiel said New Zealand is an attractive investment proposition.

“Over the last several years, New Zealand has been nurturing more early-stage tech companies. I’m delighted that the government’s New Zealand Venture Investment Fund is partnering with Valar Ventures to enable more of them to expand and compete on the global level.”

“Through our work with globally focused technology companies like Xero, we’ve seen how much New Zealand’s start-up ecosystem is flourishing,” said Valar Ventures’ Andrew McCormack. “We were drawn to invest in New Zealand because of the vision and hard work of entrepreneurs like Sam Morgan and Rod Drury, incubators such as the Icehouse, and government initiatives like the NZVIF. New Zealand has good technical talent and an attractive cost base, and we’re looking forward to strengthening the ties between Silicon Valley and New Zealand.”

Valar Ventures LP is a $40 million fund with $20 million committed by NZVIF, approximately $5 million from other New Zealand investors, and the balance from Thiel.

Bruce Plested Supports ‘Duffy Books in Homes’ Charitable Foundation

Bruce Plested is Chairman for the ‘Duffy Books in Homes’ Charitable Foundation, which provides five new books to participating students, with the aim of developing better education and a love of reading in children.  One of the main sponsors for this programme is Mainfreight. Since the initial relationship, in which Mainfreight sponsored books which were given to children in low decile schools, the firm has increased its support of the programme and has become a major sponsor of the literacy initiative.

In addition to sponsoring 54 of the 541 schools involved in the programme, Mainfreight provides a rent-free office, allowing the charity to direct more of its funding towards books which make their way into the hands of more than 100,000 children in low-income communities nationwide.

One of Mainfreight’s most anticipated contributions to the Duffy programme is the annual Mainfreight Award for Excellence in Attitude.

Each year a senior student in each Duffy school is awarded a high quality reference book, cup and certificate signed by Bruce Plested, Mainfreight’s Executive Chairman. Many schools choose to make this their major end of year prize for departing students.

This year’s book prize is The Complete Human Body – The Definitive Visual Guide by Dr. Alice Roberts. The book uses computer-generated illustrations and the latest medical and microscopic imaging to explain every aspect of the human body more clearly than ever before.

Representatives from Mainfreight, Daily Freight, Owens and Chemcouriers are invited to visit schools and help present the award – an opportunity which they all relish.

Linda Vagana, General Manager of Duffy Books in Homes believes that Mainfreight’s support has been a cornerstone of the charity’s success. “Mainfreight’s amazing success as a company over the years makes them the ideal supporter of such an award – promoting excellence and awarding our future young leaders in Duffy schools nationwide,” she said.

Since the official launch in 1995 with 80 schools, 16,000 students and 14 sponsors, the Duffy Books in Homes programme has grown to encompass 541 schools, around 100,000 students and more than 200 sponsors in 2011. More than seven million books have been distributed to children in low-decile schools since its inception and the programme now distributes more than 600,000 books annually.

Vinod Khosla Sees LanzaTech as a Role Model for Black Swans

LanzaTech’s key investor Vinod Khosla has been in New Zealand meeting with the clean energy technology company’s team – and checking out other investment opportunities. Khosla Ventures, which the entrepreneur and tech visionary set up in 2004, focuses on both information technology investments and clean energy technology ventures. However, Mr Khosla listened to pitches from eight companies from a wider spectrum while he was in New Zealand.

Together with Sir Stephen Tindall, another LanzaTech investor through his New Zealand-based K1W1 fund, and Renee Kwan, co-founder of Greater China Assets, Mr Khosla first presented to members of the biotech, clean energy and IT sectors, entrepreneurs and the wider science community at a NZ Innovation Workshop in Auckland.

Mr Khosla told the workshop audience he invested in “global” companies, rather than focussing on single countries. And he said there was far more equity around the planet than good ideas.

LanzaTech was a role model and represents “black swan” ideas Mr Khosla said. Black swans are high-impact innovations that are beyond the realm of normal expectations.

“LanzaTech is a company started by people with zeal and skills and Sean (Dr Simpson) had the conversation to make me believe that what was in the test tube he showed me had the ability to use waste streams to create energy,” he said. “When we started we didn’t know about the four or five other products that LanzaTech is now able to produce and the fact that there is every possibility that in five years from now 80% of its profits will come from products we did not envisage at the start.”

Following the innovation workshop, the eight New Zealand companies - Carbonscape, Seatrol, Carvus Traction System, Windflow, Biomimetics Lab, Near Field Communications, Rex Bionics and Yike Bike- made their pitches. They will not know for a couple of months if they have successfully attracted Mr Khosla’s further interest.

Mr Khosla also toured the LanzaTech pilot plant at the Bluescope steel mill at Glenbrook in south Auckland, which has been producing fuel ethanol from gases the steel mill flues for the past two years.

Huge night for Sir George Fistonich's Villa Maria Estate

Twenty-five years and 60 trophies is the record held by Villa Maria announced at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards at the weekend. It was a special night for the company who received notable mention for the strong trophy history that they have at the awards. When these national wine awards began in 1987 Villa Maria received the very first Champion Wine of the Show for a Gisborne Chardonnay. On Saturday history was repeated when the iconic wine company was awarded the Champion Wine of the Show for a Chardonnay, this time for the Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010.

Villa Maria Estate Founder and Managing Director Sir George Fistonich commented about the company’s success at these awards, “60 trophies over 25 years is an outstanding achievement and we are ecstatic. In terms of milestones we are clocking up the numbers; next year we’ll celebrate our 50th vintage, we’ve been New Zealand’s most awarded winery for over 30 years and in a personal milestone my wife and I have just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary and a significant birthday for my wife Gail,” he said.

Villa Maria’s performance at the awards this year included four trophies:

Champion Wine of Show – Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010 Champion Chardonnay – Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010 Champion Sustainable Wine – Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2010 Champion Merlot – Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2009

The champion winning wine from Hawkes Bay has been gaining unprecedented success with an incredible 11 trophies to its name. It has won four Champion Wine of Show awards dominating not only the Chardonnay classes but the entire show at the New Zealand International Wine Show, Hawkes Bay A&P Wine Awards, Bragato Wine Awards and the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.

In addition to the Air New Zealand Wine Awards trophies, Villa Maria won a total of 16 gold medals across nine wine styles, being Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Verdelho, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and dessert wine.

This year’s competition saw 1489 wines entered from ten of the country’s key wine growing regions.

Men with Odd Shaped Balls.

It is snowing in Queenstown. I'm wondering if I can sneak in one more run on the slopes before my flight back to Auckland. Stumbled up this online today. New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team have released a trick-shot video for the Rugby Channel TV network. Just a bit of fun.

New Zealand wine recognised on the world stage with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Villa Maria founder Sir George Fistonich

Sir George Fistonich, Owner and Managing Director of Villa Maria Estate, received the International Wine Challenge’s highest honour at last night’s glittering awards dinner where he accepted the esteemed Lifetime Achievement Award. Sir George joins an exclusive group of high profile figures from the wine world who have previously received this award, most recently including Peter Lehmann, Peter Lehmann Wines (2009) and Miguel Torres, Bodegas Torres (2010).

Sir George Fistonich founded Villa Maria Estate in Auckland in 1961. With vision and determination he has steered the company to a position where it has become New Zealand’s leading wine award winner, both locally and overseas. A pioneering figure in the New Zealand wine industry, Sir George has achieved many firsts, and his outstanding contributions were honoured in 2009 when he was knighted for his services to the New Zealand wine industry. Still entirely family-owned Villa Maria Estate is dedicated to the pursuit of making quality New Zealand wines, enjoyed by wine drinkers around the world.

Sir George commented, “I am incredibly honoured to accept this award. It is very humbling to be recognised by the wine industry for Villa Maria’s achievements. We’ve worked hard promoting our premium New Zealand wines to the world so it’s a great feeling to be among such an elite group of wine industry icons. I founded Villa Maria Estate nearly fifty years ago and feel very lucky to be part of an exciting and stimulating industry. It is the effort and dedication of the fantastic teams I have worked with, both past and present, that make Villa Maria and the wines that we produce the success that they are and I would like to thank every one of them for their commitment and passion.”

The International Wine Challenge Awards are the world’s most prestigious and influential wine awards. The 2011 ceremony took place at The Hilton Park Lane. The judging panel, chaired by Tim Atkin MW, Oz Clarke, Charles Metcalfe, Sam Harrop MW & Derek Smedley MW, chose to honour Sir George Fistonich with this accolade, which is bestowed annually on one senior industry leader for significant contributions to the wine industry internationally.

Lola and Charlie

Work in Queenstown on return from USA, and managed to get the girls into ski school! They loved the snow…. Reminded me of Marlana's current favorite book.  Lola and Charlie.  Lola said "Charlie, Charlie, SNOW… it is my favourite and my best!" Just back from the snow, now off to New York, Santa Barbara, Michigan, Denver, Aspen etc…

Cameron O'Reilly Brings Investment To New Zealand

Today consolidation of manufacturing was announced to create a stronger foundation for future growth in the Australian and New Zealand markets for Heinz. After an extensive review of the trans Tasman manufacturing footprint and capabilities, the decision has been made to consolidate production of sauces, beetroot, and some canned meal products from Australian facilities , to facilities in Hastings.

“These changes to our business will be implemented within 12 months. While a small number of new positions will be created, the Hastings facilities have the infrastructure to absorb the additional volumes into current operations.

Why come here when so many companies are moving out? "New Zealand has a level playing field, it's a good place to invest. And New Zealanders are very special and wonderful people. You have a very good work ethic, farming support, infrastructure - and a very competitive dollar."

Why is Tony O'Reilly, Heinz’s largest private shareholder and one of the world's four Western press barons, the highest-paid CEO in the United States, the man who spent $US3.84 million on the 40-carat diamond ring Aristotle Onassis gave to Jackie Kennedy for his second wife Chryssanthie (Chryss) Goulandris (52) - telling New Zealanders how to put the country back on the road? Because, say the cynics, he has $1.5 billion invested here. Those who know him well don't agree. Their theory? He simply wants to help a country he loves.

O'Reilly says, "If I wasn't an Irishman I'd be a Kiwi."

The Boating Brilliance of Family Focused Fathers

Few things thrill me quite like sailing home into the sunset with a constant SE 18knot breeze on New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf, and one of my twin daughters telling me, "You're the 'bestest' daddy in the whole wide world"! ... "I love you daddy". My daughters are seven. Oh how I hope and 'pray' my girls feel similarly when they're seventeen, or even Eleven!

I have a plan of sorts, and currently my darling wife seems in on the 'idea'.  When my daughters are teenagers dancing around in their 'string' bikinis, my dream is that they are on a boat, loving life as only young girls can... And here's the thing, I know where they are, who they're with, and what they're doing! So far my girls love to be on Sirocco. Just love it. So, perhaps naively, I feel like my plan is working!

I thought this idea was to some extent original to me, until I remembered a quote about one Fabulous Father, Rich DeVos, by one of his sons; "To Dad, the boat is not a luxury. He uses the boat to build family relationships. The close quarters of a boat force a family to spend time together. On a boat, the teachable moments are more frequent and longer lasting."

A little while ago, Donnell and I were warmly welcomed aboard what was possibly the largest sailing yacht in Monaco, by dear friends. I have worked for the family and their delightful children on many boats, but never this one. Yet this was a totally family oriented 'super yacht'!. The couple and their children shared with us many exciting memories and stories of good times enjoyed as a family and as an extended family. Once aboard, immediately board games came out. The boat became an animated family play-ground!

Yes, there's time to play on a boat! Time to share! Time to listen! Time to love . . . even quiet time to read... on a boat!

When the sails are up, the lines are tight, the boats heeling over nicely into the wind and the engines cut... Suddenly there's quiet! There's peace and there's time to talk, to joke about, to love being together as a family.

And then of course our children can't wait to find remote places to go on 'adventures' and explore... unforgettable cherished memories to 'bottle' forever with a camera! Pictures that become 'buoy's' in our minds to tie our family memories to... few things give me such peace and joy and satisfaction as a Dad than taking my family sailing!


5 Chefs Serve Generously for Canterbury

A collaborative effort between five of Auckland’s top chefs and Villa Maria Estate has raised $100,000 for the Christchurch City Mission. What began as a desire to do something to help the people of Canterbury after the devastating February earthquake became a demonstration of solidarity and generosity from Villa Maria, those organising the event and those that attended.

Two hundred and ten guests paid $250 each for the five-course degustation matched with Villa Maria wines. Everyone involved from the front of house staff to the food suppliers donated their time or products for the event.

Participating chefs included: Des Harris – Clooney Michael Meredith – Merediths Mike van de Elzen – Molten Restaurant Sid Sahrawat – Sidart Restaurant Stephen Ward – O’Connell Street Bistro

The luncheon was hosted by Villa Maria. Kerre Woodham and John Hawkesby emceed the event where guests were wined and dined with live entertainment and with a series of live and silent auctions. The enthusiastic crowd bid generously, including $5000 for a progressive dinner at a selection of Auckland restaurants.

The grand total from ticket and auction sales came to $93,000 with an un-named person pledging the extra $7000 to make an even total of $100,000.

One hundred per cent of all proceeds are being donated to the Christchurch City Mission, an organisation that has a heavy load to bear in the coming months.

Christchurch City Missioner Michael Gorman was ecstatic to hear of the donation: “Our work at the City Mission is only just beginning, as we are now faced with an influx of new people who never thought they would need us. Redundancies and homelessness are forcing people to set aside their pride and seek help. We are eager to assist and will have better resources to do so with this wonderful donation,” he said.

George Fistonich's Villa Maria beats its own record with an outstanding 17 Golds

George Fistonich's Villa Maria Estate has beaten its own record having been awarded 17 Golds at the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards 2011. The awards are across their entire range of wines including Private Bin, Cellar Selection, Reserve and Single Vineyard and for majority of the wine varietals the winery makes.

Villa Maria Estate Group Winemaker Alastair Maling MW was ecstatic with the medal wins: “This is the most incredible result that we’ve had in a wine competition in the nine years I’ve been at Villa Maria. Not only is the result great for our brand, it’s also extremely satisfying to win awards across the full spectrum of wines produced by Villa Maria”.

The Royal Easter Show Wine Awards is New Zealand’s oldest wine competition and this year had a record 1500 wines entered from 276 wineries around the country.

Trophy winners will be announced at an awards dinner on 19 March 2011.