W

hen it comes time to write

The World According to Martin Snedden

, the chapter on Duco will be a short but lively one.

Snedden has lifted the lid on his time with the events management company, revealing that he often disagreed with the approach of owners Dean Lonergan and David Higgins, that he nearly quit after being "blindsided" by the Teina Pora affair and that with three strong personalities at the top of the company his tenure as chief executive was always likely to be a short one.

He also talks at length about the unfair perception of the company, his admiration for the risks Higgins and Lonergan take and why the perception of them is often unfair or plain wrong.

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The marriage between Snedden and Duco was a curious one. There was Snedden, the former international cricketer, a lawyer with an unimpeachable reputation for sports administration, jumping into bed with a couple of cowboys (we will return to this word). Duco were perceived to be to sports management what a shock jock is to serious broadcasting.

Snedden heard the white noise but was unfazed. Besides, once the Rugby World Cup had been successfully pulled off the handover to England complete, he needed a job.

"What most people miss is much of my recent work history had been in the business of sport and many of the experiences I'd had were directly transferable into my role at Duco," Snedden says.

"What was completely different was working for two guys who every single moment of the two years I'm there have their personal fortune on the line. I don't think there is any real appreciation in the public domain as to how risky events are. And they ebb and flow as we've seen with the sevens."

Although Snedden didn't have his own skin in the game, the intensity of having his colleagues' financial wellbeing on the line added a frisson to day-to-day decision making that hadn't existed in his roles at the helm of New Zealand Cricket and Rugby World Cup 2011.

"My lifespan with Duco was always going to be reasonably short. After two years of working with Dean and David I ended up with a lot of admiration for what they have done and what they will continue to do. But it's a pretty intensive workplace quite simply because the three of us have completely different personalities."

It was often portrayed as Snedden acting as the roundhead to the cavalier duo but although there is more than a smidgen of truth to that, he says Higgins and Lonergan are also different and at times competing personalities.

"The intensity of keeping us all on the same page was taking its toll. It always had a reasonably short shelf life."

Dean Lonergan and David Higgins. Photo / Doug Sherring
Dean Lonergan and David Higgins. Photo / Doug Sherring

There was another factor weighing on Snedden's mind as 2016 wound to a close. The 58-year-old has recently taken a close and concerned interest in the effects of head injuries on sportsmen and women and found it hard to reconcile with his position ringside at New Zealand's biggest boxing events.

"It was probably to my surprise that much of the past two years of my life had been involved in boxing. That wasn't something I necessarily expected," Snedden says. "It dawned on me over the two years that boxing was actually more brutal than I thought.

"People will look at me and say, 'What the hell did you expect? The aim of boxing is for one guy to beat the other guy up.' When you're at a distance - and I didn't follow boxing much till I got to Duco - you can take it or leave it but when you're actually in the business of boxing and you're standing beside the ring to a variety of boxers, some who are capable, some who are incapable, the sheer brutality starts to take a bit of a toll.

"As much as I enjoyed watching the skill of Parker and other skilful boxers perform, there were plenty of occasions where the naked brutality of some of the mismatches got me thinking it wasn't something I wanted to be involved in for a long period of time."

Heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker and Martin Snedden. Photo / Photosport
Heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker and Martin Snedden. Photo / Photosport
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nedden could never be a garrulous and uncompromising as Lonergan. He could play the role of the rakish spruiker like Higgins. He didn't need to. As he concedes, one of the things that made him an attractive hire for Duco was he had a more "palatable" personality to the conservative side of the sports and business world.

A big part of him, however, admired the duo's chutzpah. He said the story of how they got the NRL and its clubs across the line for the Nines is astonishing.

"Likewise, to pick up a young boxing talent who five years ago had not managed to make the New Zealand team for the London Olympics and basically provide him with the platform to build his talent, to invest enormously in him and really only start to get reasonable financial return on that investment, was great for my education," Snedden says.

As much as I enjoyed watching the skill of Parker and other skilful boxers perform, there were plenty of occasions where the naked brutality of some of the mismatches and whatnot got me thinking it wasn't something I wanted to be involved in for a long period of time.

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"These guys are risk takers. It is built into their DNA and that is a really interesting thing to be beside. They are continually thinking of ideas. Their thought patterns are different to what you'd find in a normal sporting organisation, who probably take a little bit longer to work through some of the decision-making processes.

"That attitude means they have been able to achieve some stuff that others who are more risk averse simply wouldn't have been able to achieve."

That attitude means they find themselves in the eye of storms that are largely of their own making. Part of Snedden's job was to prevent them "going too far", but it sometimes didn't work.

Take Teina Pora. Duco's behaviour was described by Pora's lawyer Jonathan Krebs as "reprehensible" when they filmed him meeting Joseph Parker and distributed the footage to media. It was the first time Pora, mentally diminished due to foetal alcohol syndrome, had talked "publicly" after the quashing of his conviction for the rape and murder of Auckland woman Susan Burdett.

At best, Duco's actions were seen as opportunistic.

"There were occasions when rather than us being on the edge, we went over the edge and into areas we would have been better off not going. Teina Pora was a good early example of that.

"I'd been there for about three months and I got blindsided by that and I gave them pretty clear feedback that if they wanted to keep me involved that couldn't happen again [and] they had to think a bit harder about that sort of stuff.

"If you look back at Duco, you'll actually see a change from that moment forward of some of the things that were done publicly."

Warrior Shaun Johnson with fans before the Eden Park semi-final for the NRL Nines. Photo / Greg Bowker
Warrior Shaun Johnson with fans before the Eden Park semi-final for the NRL Nines. Photo / Greg Bowker
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eing unashamedly brash has resulted in other downstream effects, like the brouhaha over Duco's application for public funds ahead of Parker's WBO world title fight in December. The promoters beat a hasty retreat when public opinion came down heavily on the side that suggested public funds should not be used to prop up private enterprise.

"There were times when I thought, Yeah, we've taken the wrong approach here'," Snedden admits.

"The interesting thing, though, for me at the heart of it, there was such an uproar about Duco having the temerity to apply for public funding, which actually - and obviously I've had firsthand experience of this for years - is a perfectly normal thing to do around events.

"This event stacked up really well along with a whole lot of other events where similar applications have been made.

"Public money exists to be applied for for these types of events."
Snedden is convinced the only reason the issue blew up was because of the personalities involved.

Rather than us being on the edge, we went over the edge and into areas we would have been better off not going. Teina Pora was a good early example of that.

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"One of the things I noticed very clearly was an inbuilt prejudice against David and Dean. Labels like 'cowboys' are used. It is actually really unfair given that they are, in general, using all their own money and resources to take risks to try to create events of real interest.

"New Zealand should be celebrating that entrepreneurship rather than fighting so hard against it. Look, every now and then they don't help themselves the way they present stuff and they understand that. They're fairly robust characters and so they take what comes a lot of the time.

"I just admire the fact they're prepared to try to do stuff that more conservative event people wouldn't go near."

Snedden says they withdrew their application to New Zealand Major Events because it was clear the government agency was getting increasingly uncomfortable with the public scrutiny.

"In the regional sense, we actually basically had a done deal with Ateed to invest, but again politics comes into it and we really had to back off there and not embarrass them because they had been a really good partner of Duco with the Nines."

Martin Snedden, former chief executive of Duco Events. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Martin Snedden, former chief executive of Duco Events. Photo / Jason Oxenham
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nedden keeps himself busy. He is a director of this year's World Masters Games, touted as one of the biggest sporting events to hit these shores.

The former medium pacer and tail-end blocker - he self-deprecatingly described his role on the field as to "stop the game dead" - is talking to the Herald on Sunday from the offices of NZ Cricket, where he is doing some project work.

In the wake of the Ross Taylor-Brendon McCullum captaincy shemozzle, Snedden joined New Zealand Cricket as a director. He concedes to having had some trepidation about the prospect of sitting on the board of an organisation of which he had recently been CEO.

"I've been friends with David White for a long time but I think we looked at each other and thought, 'I wonder how this is going to go?' Both of us have worked really hard to make sure it's a positive situation rather than a destabilising one."

Someone who knows Snedden well believes he has always had eyes on a big role at the International Cricket Council, a theory the man does little to deflate. He became involved again as an NZC envoy after the self-styled 'Big Three' - India, Australia and England - "decided to take over the cricket world".

He has watched and admired the way NZC chairman Greg Barclay has built his own and New Zealand's position within the ICC.

"I would love at some point in the future to get involved with the ICC," he says. "It's really edgy stuff. I'm familiar with it, I'm comfortable with it and I like dealing with the different personalities and make-ups in the cricket world."

When and if he does, he will bring a wealth of experience and experiences to the job. Thanks to two years at Duco that "dragged me in from being a more conservative natural risk instinct to something a little bit closer to what they're doing", he'll also bring a different way of thinking.

As one chapter closes, another is opening.