Tauranga commercial landlord, Bob Clarkson, has offloaded his extensive portfolio for $200 million in one of the biggest industrial and rural property transactions seen in the Bay of Plenty.
Low-profile investor and syndicator, Queenstown-based Mackersy Property, bought 24 industrial buildings, all built by Clarkson and his construction team, in two deals worth $150 million.
Clarkson, a former National Member of Parliament for Tauranga who famously defeated New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in the 2005 election - Peters held the seat for 21 years - had earlier sold his 210ha Tauriko West rural property for $53 million.
He wanted to develop a multi-million dollar residential community including affordable homes alongside the Wairoa River but was held up by rezoning and consenting issues and let the ambitious plan go.
Clarkson sold two 17,000 sq m buildings to Mackersy for $51m – the bulk storage warehouse next to Tauranga Airport and tenanted by Cargill, Nutrinza, SealesWinslow, Shercon RMD Transport and Textiles Alive; and NZL Group's new freight logistics facility in the Tauriko Business Estate on the southern outskirts of Tauranga.
The two properties are now in a Mackersy syndicate with green star-rated WSP House, a modern four-level office building overlooking Hagley Park in Christchurch, and the investment is offering a gross return of about 6 per cent.
'My life's work'
"They were rapt with the buildings and two weeks later they came back and asked if I would sell the rest," said Clarkson, 80, who still climbs his favourite digger each day and helps with the earthworks.
"It was hard giving up the properties - they are nice buildings and my life's work. I worked out recently the average person works 80,000 hours in their careers; I've now worked 247,000 hours. I've done the friggin' hours, and I thought 'bugger it', I want to get things cleared before my health gets worse."
Clarkson has been battling Parkinson's disease in his arms. "It's only a problem when I get stressed. When I'm on the digger, it's as good as gold."
In a second deal, Mackersy bought 22 of Clarkson's industrial and bulk retail buildings at the Tauriko estate and in Mt Maunganui's Jean Batten Dr and Aerodrome Rd next to the airport for $98m.
The tenants include Bunnings Warehouse, NZL, Steel and Tube, Downer, Crown Lift Truck, Coda/Priority Logistics, and a Jaguar dealership. These properties form a new syndication being promoted with a projected gross yield of 6.5 per cent.
Mitchell Mackersy Lawyers has been operating its commercial property syndication business through Maori Hill Property for more than 25 years and at the beginning of the month rebranded to Mackersy Property, with offices in Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch and Tauranga.
Mackersy privately owns 27 properties, 114 through syndicates including the Spark Central building in Wellington, and has 345 tenants and $1.7 billion worth of assets under management. Its directors are Adam Copland, Dale Robertson, Teresa Wethey, Omea Willows and Hamish Wilton.
Clarkson commuted to Tauranga for five years from Matamata in the 1990s – "I knew every pothole in the road" – and built nine commercial buildings in McDonald St at the Mount, including one for PlaceMakers, and then another nine in nearby Aviation Drive. He also built 12 buildings in Maleme St and set the pace for industrial property development in Tauranga.
After moving to Tauranga in 1995, Clarkson bought 8ha and 36 houses in Gate Pa, turning the land into a shopping centre including Tauranga's sole Mitre 10 Mega. He wasn't into retail and sold the development to then business partner and supermarket owner, Dean Waddell.
Clarkson went back to what he knew well – industrial property.
"I build clean, tidy, easy-to-maintain buildings; for years and years I am full with tenants. I don't have empty buildings. Why? There's plenty of parking – trucks can drive around most of the buildings, that's the secret," he said.
So what is Clarkson going to do with his money? "I've financed people into buildings and I will reinvest back into industrial land, but it's a problem because interest rates are so low.
"I'm looking at buying a sports car – Lamborghini or McLaren. I think I will end up with a McLaren, the latest model. It's a like a racing car, low and bulgy. I've worked hard enough to deserve one."
So how much will it cost? "$450,000 but I'm only at the picture stage. I've got to go and look at one. When I get it I won't leave it in the garage. I will drive it around town, of course I will," said Clarkson, a former stock car racer.