Alanah Eriksen is the New Zealand Herald's deputy chief of staff

America's Cup: Fierce rivals on water but neighbours on land

Jimmy Spithill owns this $5.3m property in Herne Bay - just a few doors down his nemesis Dean Barker. Photo / NZ Herald
Jimmy Spithill owns this $5.3m property in Herne Bay - just a few doors down his nemesis Dean Barker. Photo / NZ Herald

Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker's biggest nemesis Jimmy Spithill owns a $5.3 million property just a few doors down from him in New Zealand's most expensive suburb.

The Herald has uncovered the Oracle skipper's Kiwi property portfolio in the form of three investment homes in Auckland worth nearly $7 million.

He's not the only big Oracle name with houses in New Zealand - Wellington-born chief executive Sir Russell Coutts owns several, worth a whopping $28.655 million.

It is likely Spithill, an Australian who lives in San Francisco with his American wife and two children, ran into Barker often in 2011 when he bought his beachfront mansion on the same street as him in Herne Bay.

And the irony is not lost on Barker.

At a press conference last week - after Spithill said the team wanted to keep the Cup in the US because New Zealand was "a long way away" - Barker quipped: "If we take it to New Zealand, you can just buy a new house down there."

Herne Bay neighbour Halina Mercep said Spithill had spent a bit of time at the home before renting it.

The 1315sq m property has a main house with five bedrooms, five bathrooms, swimming pool and a private boat house and looks out over Waitemata Harbour. There are also two occupied rental units attached to the house. Barker's home is on the other side of the road from the beach so does not have its own jetty.

Mrs Mercep, 75, described Spithill as a "gorgeous neighbour".

"He's gorgeous-looking. If I was 50 years younger..."

The sailor once asked to use her driveway when he was having something delivered. She willingly obliged and the next day he came to her house with a large bag of venison to say thank you.

Spithill also owns two neighbouring rental properties in Glenfield, which he bought for $529,000 in 2007.

One of the occupants, Debbie van Rensburg, has just moved two portable sheds on to the front of the property from which she runs her florist shop.

She had been told her landlord was "some kind of sailor" but was surprised to hear it was Spithill.

He also owns a home in Mt Eden, which has been made into two flats with at least eight occupants. He bought the properties for $1.08 million in 2008.

Tenant Barney Toy, 29, also had no idea Spithill was his landlord.

Spithill's boss at Oracle, Russell Coutts, owns at least six properties around the country himself including three neighbouring waterfront homes on the same street in Whangaparaoa, worth $7.7 million in total.

Two of the properties are empty and a neighbour said Coutts lived in the third home when he was in the country with wife Jenny and their three children.

He bought the five-bedroom place for $2.9 million in October 2004.

Coutts also bought a 751sq m section on a nearby road this year for $320,000 and owns the $900,000 apartment his mother Beverley lives in in Takapuna.

He also owns three neighbouring titles in rural Queenstown, worth $19.65 million. A home that had been on one of the sections was razed in a non-suspicious fire in 2009 and caretaker Phil Bancroft died from a heart attack caused by a pre-existing condition.

A private nine-hole golf course, designed by New Zealand golfing legend Greg Turner, also sits on the land and Coutts has sought resource consent to expand it. Neighbours include reclusive music producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, former husband of country singer Shania Twain.

Oracle was not taking media queries during yesterday's rest day.

- NZ Herald

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