Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Pizza chief heads for US amid plans to quit Hell

Warren Powell has taken extended leave. Photo / Chris Skelton
Warren Powell has taken extended leave. Photo / Chris Skelton

Embattled Hell Pizza boss Warren "Otis" Powell is in talks to quit the company, and wants more than $1 million for his stake.

Director Callum Davies confirmed he and Stu McMullin have held discussions to buy Powell out of his one-third share of the fast-food business.

Powell, 43, has taken an extended break in the United States for the next few months and has placed possessions in storage.

Davies confirmed yesterday that they had been discussing Powell's leaving the franchise company for some time but said it was "premature to suggest we are on the verge of a split".

He described his business partner of eight years as a "polarising person".

"He does great things for the brand but he does get people's backs up. That's sometimes hard for us as business partners.

He doesn't want to damage the brand."

Powell's franchise expertise saw massive expansion at Hell, helping to take the four stores to 66 in three years as Hell became one of New Zealand's most recognisable brands.

The trio made $15m from selling the New Zealand master franchise rights in 2006, but bought it back for just $3.5m three years later.

It emerged last week that Hell, under Powell's directions, had reneged on a pledge of $10,000 to charity KidsCan. Hell took to Twitter this week to defend themselves, initially claiming they had donated KidsCan $13,000 on the night.

That "Tweet" was later deleted and Davies said they had been seeking answers from Powell about what had happened to the $13,000.

Hell hired advertising agency Barnes, Catmur and Friends to approach KidsCan after a rival pizza company agreed to give the charity $10,000.

KidsCan chief executive Julie Helson said that the charity's response would be decided at a board meeting next week.

Davies said: "The article last week hurt a lot of mum and dad franchisees.

"They haven't deserved that. None of us want anything to happen to the franchises."

Half a dozen offices and homes in Auckland and Wellington - including Powell's Mission Bay home - were raided by the SFO earlier this month as part of their investigation into Hell. Davies said that he "wasn't losing any sleep" over the investigation.

- Herald on Sunday

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