High-flyer Peter Jackson's jet set upgrade

By Rebecca Lewis

Never mind the global recession - filmmaker Peter Jackson is believed to be taking to the skies with a new, $106 million jet.

Aircraft industry insiders are abuzz with speculation about the Oscar winner's upgrade to a Gulfstream G550 jet, one of two exclusive private jets sold to New Zealanders in the past 18 months.

Jackson, whose net wealth is estimated at $450 million on the NBR Rich List, already owns a G-IV jet, but those in the know say he's decided to upgrade.

"Everyone in the industry is talking about it," said a source. "He's got a G-IV at the moment so he probably wants an upgrade and it's a pretty good plane to upgrade to."

Another source said there was a wait time of 12 months for the jet, so Jackson most likely would have got in early. "I've heard about it from a number of people and I'm not surprised he's bought one. They are great planes."

The jet is decked out with four living areas, an office, satellite communications and can seat up to 18 passengers. It has Rolls Royce turbofan engines, allowing for longer-haul flights to be completed easier.

"I heard he didn't want to have to stop and refuel when flying between New Zealand and America, and you don't need to in a G550," said a source.

Air National, which charters planes for Gulfstream, is staying tight-lipped, but its sales and marketing manager said two had been sold in New Zealand.

"We have sold two into the New Zealand market in the past 18 months," said Richard Bagnall. "They are around US$45 million brand new, but if you bought one now you might be paying a bit more than that.

"We respect the confidentiality of our clients and would not divulge who they are or what they have bought. We take their privacy very seriously."

Other celebrities who own variations of the Gulfstream jets include David Letterman, Madonna, George Michael and basketball player Magic Johnson.

Jackson owns a coastal property in Seatoun with partner Fran Walsh and has put millions into his studio empire near Wellington Airport.

His "kingdom" consists of the famous Weta Workshop for movie special effects, and the $55 million Park Rd Post Production centre which has handled movies like the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Tom Hanks' Castaway and The Last Samurai.

A few hundred metres past the Miramar shops is Jackson's huge Stone St Studios, built in a former paint factory. A $12million, 7010sq m sound stage was built there in 2004 in time to be used for King Kong.

The Rings trilogy is said to have grossed more than $4 billion, with Jackson estimated to have pocketed at least $220 million. King Kong grossed around $600 million worldwide.

* Jackson's world

- Net worth $450m, according to NBR Rich List.

- Lives in Seatoun, Wellington, with partner Fran Walsh and their children.

- The couple also own a $5 million property in Wairarapa, a 20ha fantasyland with mansion, private lake, underground tunnel, and the movie-set hobbit home of Frodo Baggins.

- Jackson's business assets and property include Camperdown Studios in Miramar, a post-production facility, and Stone St Studios near Wellington Airport.

- Upcoming movies include The Lovely Bones. He and Walsh are executive producers on two Lord of the Rings prequels of The Hobbit, to be directed by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro in Wellington.

- Herald on Sunday

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