Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Foley's empire gathers grapes

American billionaire Bill Foley can now buy a further 25 per cent of the shares in Wharekauhau Country Estate. Photo / Supplied
American billionaire Bill Foley can now buy a further 25 per cent of the shares in Wharekauhau Country Estate. Photo / Supplied

American billionaire Bill Foley's New Zealand property and wine empire is growing. The Overseas Investment Office has granted consent for him to increase his property holdings.

In its latest release of decision sheets, it revealed Foley can now buy a further 25 per cent of the shares in Wharekauhau Country Estate which owns or controls a freehold interest in 1439ha of land at Wharekauhau and Wharepapa farms, Wairarapa.

He is buying the assets from Nico De Lange, Kristine De Lange and Independent Trust Company (2010) as trustees for the N&K Family Trust, the office said.

Wharekauhau Country Estates needs further capital to operate and develop the resort and farming business and undertake further development works in the future, the office said.

The price of that deal was suppressed.

Foley's takeover of a listed wine company is also moving ahead. Directors of the New Zealand Wine Company said they had signed a deal with Foley Family Wines New Zealand, conditional on getting shareholder approval at a special meeting on August 14 and on Overseas Investment Office consent.

If the deal goes ahead, Foley would get 80 per cent of that company which owns 76ha of vineyard land in Marlborough, mostly in sauvignon blanc, and produces 300,000 cases a year.

The merger would double his wine production volume in New Zealand.

"This merger is a key component to our New Zealand strategy," Foley said.

"The strong growth of our New Zealand wine brands, along with a couple of short vintages, has left us challenged to meet our demand."

The deal would give Foley access to an extra 200ha of Marlborough vineyards. Foley established the business in 1996, buying Linecourt Vineyards in California's Santa Ynez Valley, but it is now a major producer, marketer and distributor of wines.

- NZ Herald

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