Dream penthouse sells for a bargain price

By Lane Nichols

Property developer David Henderson's penthouse suite above The Hilton Hotel. Photo / Doug Sherring
Property developer David Henderson's penthouse suite above The Hilton Hotel. Photo / Doug Sherring

A sprawling luxury penthouse on Auckland's waterfront once touted as the country's biggest and most expensive apartment with an asking price of $10 million has been sold for just $900,000.

The 911sq m pad - nearly five times the size of the average Kiwi home - was formerly owned by former rich-lister and property developer David Henderson. It has a 2011 valuation of nearly $6 million.

But the Weekend Herald can reveal the lavish six-bedroom home - which boasts its own wine cellar, two lifts and heated swimming pool - changed hands in a mortgagee sale for just $900,000, according to QV records. Mr Henderson, who was discharged from bankruptcy last month, told the Weekend Herald yesterday he'd had a great time living in the apartment but did not miss his old pad.

"Not really. It served its purpose. There were some fantastic times there. I'm looking for something completely different."

He was now living with a friend in Mission Bay and did not own his own home.

"I definitely want something a bit smaller."

Perched on the top level of Shed 21 at Princes Wharf above the Hilton Auckland, the apartment was sold to Ambrosia Land Ltd in 2012. The company, which is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, also bought the Hilton Auckland that year in a deal granted approval by the Overseas Investment Office.


David Henderson's penthouse apartment above the Hilton Hotel. Photo / Getty Images

The purchase was thought to be worth about $40 million.

OIO documents show the sale was approved because it would retain jobs and increase export receipts and that the company intended to "improve the Hilton Hotel performance through increased occupancy and higher use of banquet facilities".

Ambrosia's two Singapore-based directors are Jocelyn Wan Sze Kum and Lynda Bee Yong Ong. They are represented in New Zealand by law firm Minter Ellison.

Forbes has previously listed Ms Kum's father, Michael Kum, as Singapore's 26th richest man with his fortune put at US$670 million ($809 million).

Mr Henderson's Kitchener Group built the Hilton and luxury penthouse suite and he'd lived in the eighth floor mansion in a "caretaker" capacity. But he put it on the market in 2010 before being bankrupted by Inland Revenue in June 2011. The apartment was for sale on and off for several years before it was finally sold under mortgagee sale by Asteron Trust.

The Weekend Herald sought comment from Hilton Worldwide and Minter Ellison about plans for the penthouse site after a source said it could be developed into a high-end restaurant. Both refused to comment on "market speculation".

Mr Henderson said he did not know what the Hilton planned for his old penthouse.

"Obviously they bought it to make it a part of the hotel, I presume."

He did not think anyone was currently living there.

"I haven't seen any lights on."

Asked about the purchase price, Mr Henderson said it was likely to reflect the leasehold status of the property.

He had been paying $130,000 a year in ground rents to live there, but understood that figure had risen significantly since then.

"It's a hell of a lot of bikkies to pay out before you buy your groceries.

"Like all leaseholds they have a ground rent that really affects the value of the property.

"You can buy leasehold very cheaply ... but unfortunately the way these things work is they [ground rents] go up substantially every five years."

A QV spokesman said the penthouse had a 2011 valuation of $5.925 million and the recorded $900,000 sales price was surprising.

However, he noted the property was leasehold and said valuations were generally based on freehold title.

- NZ Herald

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