Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel a Kiwi citizen, owns Wanaka estate

By Matt Nippert, Anne Gibson

Peter Thiel's company revealed as Glendhu Bay property buyer

Controversial American billionaire, Trump donor and venture capitalist Peter Thiel has taken New Zealand citizenship and quietly acquired a Wanaka lakefront estate.

Property records show that Thiel's New Zealand-registered company Second Star bought a 193ha Glendhu Bay farm in 2015 described as a vacant lifestyle block.

Thiel, who lists San Francisco as his residence in Companies Office records, is Second Star's sole shareholder. Forbes magazine assessed his net worth recently at US$2.7 billion.

(L to R) Vice President-elect Mike Pence looks on as President-elect Donald Trump shakes the hand of Thiel during a meeting with technology executives at Trump Tower in December. Photo / Getty Images
(L to R) Vice President-elect Mike Pence looks on as President-elect Donald Trump shakes the hand of Thiel during a meeting with technology executives at Trump Tower in December. Photo / Getty Images

The sprawling property adds to his local real estate portfolio, following the earlier purchase of a Queenstown mansion.

The revelation comes as the New Yorker magazine reports New Zealand has become the destination of choice for rich Americans seeking a bolthole to hedge against natural or political disaster.

The price paid for the Lake Wanaka property was not disclosed in documents, but the property had a rateable value of $7.8 million. The most recent previous sale of the section, in 2002, was for $10.1m.

The property appears to fit the classification of "sensitive land" under the Overseas Investment Act requiring foreign buyers to seek official permission before buying. A spokeswoman for the Overseas Investment Office said the purchase did not need to follow this process.

The property on the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Rd (left), juts out into Lake Wanaka and the township of Wanaka is shown on the right. Photo/Google Maps
The property on the Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Rd (left), juts out into Lake Wanaka and the township of Wanaka is shown on the right. Photo/Google Maps

"Second Star and Mr Thiel did not need consent as he has New Zealand citizenship," the spokeswoman said.

The property, eight minutes' drive from Wanaka, is on the Glendhu Bay-Mt Aspiring Rd, near the Glendhu Bay Motorcamp.

Southeby's International Realty advertised the 193ha Damper Bay property as being a "spectacular 477-acre freehold estate set on the western shores of stunning Lake Wanaka".

"A most beautiful and picturesque farm, the property offers a secluded and peaceful setting but is just eight minutes' drive from the centre of Wanaka town centre. With Mt Aspiring National Park, a World Heritage Area set in the foreground, Damper Bay provides an outstanding vista from the consented building platform."

Thiel struck gold after being an angel investor in Facebook, following his co-founding of Paypal. He was also an early backer of Rod Drury's NZX-listed Xero.

Thiel has attracted controversy in the United States. His libertarian political views saw him become one of the first prominent businesspeople to support the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, and he also bankrolled Hulk Hogan's defamation action which bankrupted gossip website Gawker.

Read: Survival of the richest

Damper Bay, as it was advertised, "a most beautiful and picturesque farm" eight minute's drive from Wanaka.
Damper Bay, as it was advertised, "a most beautiful and picturesque farm" eight minute's drive from Wanaka.

In October last year, Auckland-headquartered real estate agent Graham Wall told Mountain Scene he was doing a significant amount of business with wealthy Americans buying property in the Lakes District.

Wall sold a $4.7m mansion on Belfast Terrace on Queenstown Hill to Thiel in 2011.

Wall did not return calls this afternoon.

Property records show the Glendhu Bay property was classed as a "pastoral-fattening" property and "uneconomic". It is now listed as a stock finishing property.

Thiel could not be reached for comment.

- NZ Herald

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