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Russian meets royals after $1m donation

Prime Minister John Key was at the opening of the cycling centre in Cambridge with Kate and William. Photo / Richard Robinson
Prime Minister John Key was at the opening of the cycling centre in Cambridge with Kate and William. Photo / Richard Robinson

A Russian multi-millionaire was granted a private audience with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during the royal tour after pledging $1 million to the national velodrome.

Waiwera Water owner Mikhail Khimich agreed to give the sum over three years to the Cambridge Avantidrome before details of the royal visit were announced.

Khimich, who is seeking permanent residency and is also known as Michael, this week revealed he has ploughed $4m into New Zealand sports teams in the past year, including a $500,000 payment the day after Team New Zealand lost the America's Cup last September.

He said through Ben Morrison, a partner from his lawyers Lowndes Jordan, that he had not been influenced to donate to the velodrome by the prospect of meeting the royal couple in April.

"Once Michael learned they may be attending, he was excited to meet the royal couple as were all those attending the opening.

"That Michael was granted a private audience with the royal couple was fortuitous but not unexpected, considering his historical and ongoing generous donations to sport in New Zealand, and he certainly appreciated the opportunity to meet the guests of honour."

Khimich had also given generously to Emirates Team New Zealand, donating $1.5m to the last team to prepare for the San Francisco regatta and another $500,000 immediately after the last race.

Khimich also became involved in sponsoring the New Zealand Olympic team through his friendship with key Team New Zealand and Olympic chef de mission Rob Waddell in San Francisco.

An initial $250,000 was donated at the end of 2013 and he intends to support the New Zealand Olympic Committee at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

NZOC communications manager Ashley Abbott confirmed Waiwera Water was a proposed sponsor for the Commonwealth Games but had pulled out.

"The decision was made to not proceed. Waiwera Water was happy that we retained an initial payment that had been made towards the sponsorship and we were comfortable with the arrangement. It is vital for us that our commercial partners achieve a return on their objectives and we are open to talking to them about arrangements in the future."

In a recent interview with the Herald on Sunday Khimich cited his friendship with "great sportsman" Waddell.

Last month the Herald on Sunday revealed Khimich escaped a drink-driving charge because of translation difficulties after he was pulled over near the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Khimich's expansion of the Waiwera group of companies has run into difficulties. Neither a five star hotel resort at Waiwera and an organic winery bottling operation have so far eventuated.

- Herald on Sunday

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