One of Auckland's largest private commercial and retail landlords, the multibillion-dollar Samson Corporation, offered many tenants 80 per cent rent reduction during alert levels 3 and 4.

Dear Reader, 436 Richmond Rd, got a rent cut. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Dear Reader, 436 Richmond Rd, got a rent cut. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Grey Lynn tenants praised the business established by Sir Michael Friedlander, saying not only was his rent cut by "thousands" but he knew of others who enjoyed the same benefits.

Jacob Faull, of the organic clothing and products shop Nature Baby at 423 Richmond Rd in West Lynn, said: "They've been amazing. It was just what we needed. The architecture they develop is amazing, any time we have a problem they fix it up."

Jacob Faull, co-founder of Nature Baby: shop owned by a Samson entity. Photo / Babiche Martens
Jacob Faull, co-founder of Nature Baby: shop owned by a Samson entity. Photo / Babiche Martens

David Peirse, of nearby bookshop Dear Reader at 436 Richmond Rd, also said a rent reduction from Samson "resulted in an outcome we were happy with".

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Faull knew of other cases where the Friedlanders had cut the rent by 80 per cent for many weeks.

Daniel Friedlander, a Samson director and the chief executive of the business, was today reluctant to discuss any rent arrangements with tenants, saying they were commercially confidential arrangements.

one roof

"It's meant to be private. But yes most of the people who asked for help got that from us, a few were going to lawyers and the remaining did not engage," Friedlander said.

Faull said Samson owned many shops around him at West Lynn where other tenants also enjoyed the rent cuts. Friedlander only said: "We're a large landlord in the area."

Asked how many millions of dollars Samson had forgone in rent on dozens of buildings, Friedlander would not say.

One Samson tenant in Newmarket is understood to be disgruntled after being unable to negotiate the rent cut they anticipated.

Jillian and Daniel Friedlander at Louis Vuitton charity ball last decade. Photo / Norrie Montgomery
Jillian and Daniel Friedlander at Louis Vuitton charity ball last decade. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

But Friedlander said where help could be provided, it was given. He indicated some situations were not easy but was reluctant to go into further detail.

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"We were proactive," Friedlander said.

Property records show Samson Corporation owns 138 properties in Mt Eden, Ponsonby, Epsom, Grey Lynn, Onehunga, Three Kings, Mt Roskill, Sandringham, Kingsland, Grafton, Penrose, New Lynn, Eden Terrace and Auckland Central.

Sir Michael Friedlander established Samson Corporation.
Sir Michael Friedlander established Samson Corporation.

It has at least $2 billion of property, with large suburban holdings across Auckland including many retail outlets as well as offices.

Sir Michael Friedlander has been a quiet but powerful force in the Auckland property market for more than 70 years, forming Samson Corp in 1946, and he appeared on the Herald's property power list last year in one of the top places for private businesses.

Latterly, the company has been a major architectural influence, creating landmarks including Ironbank on Auckland's Karangahape Rd, highly commended in the World Architectural Festival, Parnell's Geyser, which took Institute of Architects awards, Cumulus, which also won local awards and D72 on Dominion Rd.

Marco Creemers is project director of sustainability and new developments and his involvement has resulted in the business winning many architectural awards.

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The Government did consider rent support for the commercial sector but never went ahead with that.

Leonie Freeman, chief executive of the Property Council, representing big-time landlords, said last month: "We do have concerns that a one-size-fits-all approach could have negative repercussions for both landlords and tenants. We continue to encourage that both parties negotiate in good faith in an open, honest and transparent manner. We are all in this together and everyone must share the pain."

Jordan Williams, of the Taxpayers Union, said he was inherently uncomfortable with government intervention into agreements between commercial parties.

Bookshop Dear Reader: premises is owned by a Samson entity. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Bookshop Dear Reader: premises is owned by a Samson entity. Photo / Steven McNicholl

"Interfering with consumer contracts where there is a power imbalance is one thing, but to interfere with leases between commercial parties is quite another. It would be similar to interfering with fixed interest rate contracts. Where would it end?" he asked.

Landlords who own properties in a national hotel chain agreed to halve rent as operators struggled with falling revenue from low occupancies.

Stephen Mansfield, chief executive of Quest Apartment Hotels, said this month that about 80 per cent of the property owners had agreed to halve the rent in May and June, resulting in a deduction of more than $2 million.

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Franchisee operators greatly appreciated the landlords' actions, he said.

Quest, with 1573 rooms and suites from Whangārei to Invercargill, suffered occupancy rate drops from 80 per cent-plus pre-lockdown to just 43 per cent in the almost five weeks of level 4, Mansfield said.

Nature Baby: shop owned by Samson Corporation.
Nature Baby: shop owned by Samson Corporation.

But one Quest owner said he was extremely unhappy about the cut. When occupancy rates rose, would owners be repaid what they had lost, he asked.

Sir Bob Jones called for the Government to stay out of landlord/tenant relationships.

I think you will find the Government will not meddle with commercial leases, nor should they," Jones said. "Dealing with troubled retailers is an everyday issue for shopping centre owners and people like us and there's no need for the Government to become involved."