Instra Corp founder and Super Black Racing team owner Tony Lentino has died aged 42, after a battle with cancer.
His father migrated from Italy to Hawke's Bay in the 1950s and he attended Mahora School, where his interest in computers started.
The family moved to Australia but Tony Lentino's sister, Vinny, returned to Hawke's Bay, followed by sister Louise who opened up a New Zealand arm of Instra Corp, which Tony Lentino founded in Melbourne in 2000.
Their mother, Linda, also worked in the Napier office, which became head office for the internet domain name registry business.
He also returned to New Zealand and lived in Wellsford, north of Auckland, on a property with its own runway so the affable entrepreneur could pursue his love of flying.
Mr Lentino befriended Kim Dotcom after the German internet entrepreneur used Mr Lentino's runway to race his car.
Mr Lentino and his wife provided personal and financial support to Mr Dotcom and his family after armed police in helicopters raided their mansion in 2012, arresting Mr Dotcom and freezing his assets for alleged copyright infringements in the United States.
Mr Lentino was the first investor and CEO of Mega, the cloud-storage venture of Mr Dotcom, with Instra providing administrative support.
The appointment of Vikram Kumar, the former InternetNZ chief executive, as Mega CEO was made in 2013 at Instra's Napier office with Mr Dotcom in attendance.
While Mr Dotcom was a larger-than-life figure sporting a boater for Art Deco Napier, an affable Mr Lentino happily remained in the background.
Mr Lentino sold out of Mega and, as he battled cancer, sold Instra last year to London Stock Exchange-listed CentralNic for $35 million, with Louise Lentino remaining as chief operating officer at the Napier business in Tennyson St.
He was the founder and owner of Super Black Racing NZ in the Australian Supercars V8 Championship series.
The all-Kiwi team competed full-time for the last two seasons after debuting at Bathurst in 2014.
Super Black Racing Operations Manager Greg Hahn said he would be deeply missed.
"He passed away surrounded by his family at his beloved home of Wellsford north of Auckland following a relatively short but spirited battle with cancer which he fought with all the energy he poured into everything he did," he said.
Prodrive Racing CEO Tim Edwards said Mr Lentino would be remembered as a major supporter of New Zealand's next generation of racing drivers.
"On behalf of everyone at Prodrive Racing we pass on our sincerest sympathies to Tony's wife, Emily, his two young daughters and their family and friends following his passing," he said.
"First and foremost, Tony will be remembered as an extremely passionate man who loved racing, loved giving the little guy a chance and, most of all, liked taking it to the Aussies on and off the track.
"While he only came to the sport relatively late, he was adamant the team represent New Zealand in everything it did and that national pride is what has seen the team attract such a strong following on both sides of the Tasman.
"We will keep the Super Black Racing flag flying and will race on in dedication to Tony and the team he created."
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