Alanah Eriksen

Alanah Eriksen is the New Zealand Herald's property reporter, and assistant chief reporter.

Reality TV queen offloads sports bar

Julie Christie sets sights on new workplace drug-testing business

Julie Christie at SkySport Bar and Grill in Auckland's Viaduct. Christie is selling the bar as she moves on to other ventures. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Julie Christie at SkySport Bar and Grill in Auckland's Viaduct. Christie is selling the bar as she moves on to other ventures. Photo / Sarah Ivey

TV mogul Julie Christie has placed her Auckland Viaduct-based sports bar on the market, along with her extensive personal collection of sports memorabilia.

The Herald can reveal the move follows the Touchdown Productions founder's decision to switch her focus from television and hospitality interests and concentrate on a workplace drug-testing business.

"At this stage in my career, I am looking for a bit of rest and relaxation before I move on to other things outside TV which has taken quite a toll on me for the past 30 years," Ms Christie said.

"I am trying to work only part-time for the first time since I was 17."

Her American-style sport bar and grill - formally the SkySport Bar and Grill - opened on Customs St West in 2011. Ms Christie leases the building so it's the business only for sale.

It will be sold along with Ms Christie's sporting collectibles, mostly given to her by stars she worked with during her television career and displayed at the bar.

She estimates she has paid about $100,000 for the 30 items, which include a jersey signed by David Beckham, a Wayne Gretzky ice hockey jersey, a boxing glove signed by former world champion Evander Holyfield, a running shoe signed by Usain Bolt, a swimming cap signed by Michael Phelps, signed photos of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and boxer Jake LaMotta and Rugby World Cup 2011 memorabilia (including a pukaea or wooden trumpet used in the opening ceremony).

Most of the items were bought at auctions, or online but a football signed by singer Rod Stewart (which he jokingly signed "Rod Hunter" in honour of his-then wife Rachel Hunter), was given to her by the singer when she made the Rachel Hunter Cover Girl documentary the year the couple were married. Anna Kournikova gave her company a tennis racket when she was a presenter on The Biggest Loser.

"A Rolling Stones guitar and a John McEnroe photo signed with a personal message are the only items I'm not selling with the business, because of their sentimental value," Ms Christie said.

She purchased the guitar at an auction for $23,000.

"I love American-style sports bars - the food, the music, the whole sports thing. And I started my TV career in sports so it's a big part of who I am.

"But it's time to move on and let someone else take over the reins of the bar, which has been a huge part of my life for the past three years."

Ms Christie is behind several Kiwi programmes including The Block NZ, Game of Two Halves, Women in Blue, This is Your Life, My House My Castle, and Treasure Island.

She founded Touchdown Productions in 1991 and the company became part of the Eyeworks Group in 2006, with Ms Christie remaining chief executive. She left the company last year.

It was revealed last month that Ms Christie has sold off the Living and Food channels to Discovery Networks.

She is still a director on the MediaWorks board and says she has no plans to take over the recently vacant chief executive role.

She has invested in New Zealand workplace drug testing and training business, the Drug Detection Agency, and its New South Wales master franchise, and is hoping it will produce 20 subfranchises.

"Workplace drug testing and manager training is a growth business and it's great to do something that changes lives.

"Other than that, I'm looking at a few things elsewhere in New Zealand.

"I believe hospitality is best served by those who work in the business and have a great love of the industry," she said.

The bar is for sale by negotiation through Bayleys real estate agent Mike Peterson, who would not be drawn on how much the business could sell for.

"The business is for sale as a going concern, with an asking price available to interested parties upon the signing of a non-disclosure agreement," he said.

- NZ Herald

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