Entrepreneur Sir Roger Bhatnagar, who went from sleeping rough to building a Kiwi business empire, has died aged 80.
Bhatnagar’s family said the patriarch was now able to rest after a long time tussling with stroke-related illnesses and incapacity.
Rajeshwar Sarup Bhatnagar, known as Roger, moved to New Zealand with his family from Vancouver in 1980, and started an electronics retail business called Sound Plus.
Sir Roger bought Noel Leeming from its receivers in 1991.
“Dad had a rich and diverse life, as he was able to savour the fruits of his success in retail and elsewhere,” his son Aaron Bhatnagar said.
“He grew up in very modest circumstances in New Delhi and when travelling the world in the late 1960s, he occasionally slept rough as he was short of money.”
Many years later, he grew Sound Plus from one to nine stores, before purchasing Noel Leeming in a leveraged buyout. He listed Noel Leeming successfully on the NZX in 1993.
“Dad was incredibly generous to family, friends and causes, but with a mercurial personality that was as tough as it was charming,” Aaron added.
“He loved the nice things in life, enjoyed his friendships with NZ sports players and politicians, and was a charismatic, larger-than-life character.
“He loved his parties and entertaining, his snapper fishing in the Hauraki Gulf, and had a passion for luxury cars, watches and collectibles.”
For services to business and the community, he was knighted in 1998, the same year rugby star Wilson Whineray and Court of Appeal judge Ian Lloyd Mackay received knighthoods.
He is also survived by daughter Anita, daughter-in-law Mara and son-in-law Blair, grandchildren Sebastian, Alexander, Christopher, Jack, Bronte and Gia, and his former wife Dee.
Sir Roger’s friend Gary Paykel, formerly Fisher & Paykel chief executive, said his old mate epitomised the spirit of the entrepreneurial businessman.
“I watched with admiration his leveraged buyout of Noel Leeming in 1991 - a gutsy move when the company was in receivership,” Paykel added.
The Bhatnagar family said a private funeral service would be held for family members and close friends.