Four upper North Island supermarkets worth tens of millions of dollars are being sold in a musical chairs-style of transactions triggered by the pending sale of what is thought to be New Zealand's biggest revenue-earning store.
Stores in the Foodstuffs North Island co-operative at Albany, College Hill, Birkenhead and Te Kuiti are said by insiders to be changing hands because owner/operators can only control one outlet at any one time.
All the deals are said to be triggered by the pending sale in August of Pak'nSave Albany which is said by insiders to then spark ownership changes to New World Victoria Park and possibly New Worlds at Birkenhead and Te Kuiti.
Dominant New Zealand's supermarket co-operative Foodstuffs bans owner/operators from having more than one store. So the sale of one automatically triggers a series of subsequent transactions.
The Herald this month reported the planned sale later this year of Albany's Pak'nSave by the Blackwells to New World Victoria Park owner Jason Witehira.
The sale of that upmarket, successful New World Victoria Park in wealthy Freemans Bay will be a large transaction.
That store takes up an entire block at the intersection of College Hill Rd, Scotland St and Franklin Rd, has underground parking, is at the edge of Ponsonby and the ever-expanding Wynyard Quarter and on the western fringe of the CBD opposite Victoria Park.
Sources said Steve Purton of New World Birkenhead could buy that popular Freemans Bay store, although he did not respond to inquiries and Foodstuffs refused to confirm or deny that.
Antoinette Laird, Foodstuffs New Zealand's head of corporate affairs, said the co-operative model was unique to the large food business here.
"Stores are individually owned and operated and while the sale of a store is a private transaction between two business entities, this generally triggers an opportunity for another Foodstuffs owner/operator to purchase their next store, providing a great chance to grow their business and career in this dynamic industry.
"The sale and purchase of Foodstuffs stores usually takes place multiple times in any given year and it's always really exciting when this happens," Laird said.
Companies Office records show Purton is one of 244 shareholders in Foodstuffs North Island. Directors including ex-Fonterra chief executive Sir Henry van der Heyden.
Pak'nSave Albany, long owned by Paul and Liz Blackwell, is planned to be sold this August to Jason Witehira, insiders say, although again neither the Blackwells, Witehira nor Foodstuffs would confirm that deal.
The Blackwells have for many years owned professional basketball team the Breakers. Three years ago, they announced a newly formed company, Breakers Basketball, would take control.
Blackwell was reported in October to be in an investment group buying Burger King from its receivers. Tahua Partners bought Starbucks New Zealand from Restaurant Brands in 2018 and was said to have signed a binding agreement to buy the burger chain.
The Blackwells featured on the 2018 National Business Review Rich List at an estimated $65m. That said the "supermarket supremo couple" remained involved with the Breakers despite relinquishing their controlling stake.
"They are staying on at the club they owned for 13 years, now as minority shareholders, with Paul staying on the board to continue his influence that led the team to unprecedented success in the Australian National Basketball League," NBR reported then.
Witehira said this month he did not wish to comment. Paul Blackwell did not respond to email inquiries. Chris Quin, Foodstuffs chief executive, said he was unavailable to speak.
New World Victoria Park is estimated by some to be worth more than $25m, although others put the figure much, much higher.
Witehira rose to prominence in 2016 when the ex-supermarket shelf-stacker won the Outstanding Māori Business Leaders Award from the University of Auckland Business School.
New World Te Kuiti is owned by Mark Brittenden but staff at that store said today that he was unavailable. That store was opened in 2016.
At the time, Foodstuffs North Island property development manager Lindsay Rowles said it was the third of five new Foodstuffs supermarkets to open in the North Island in 2016.