Key Points:

If John Key makes it to the ninth floor of the Beehive, he may be New Zealand's richest Prime Minister.

Of those who could compare are Sir Joseph Ward, who was wealthy before he entered Parliament, went bankrupt, then clawed his way back. When he died in 1930 he had an estate of £337,000 (worth $28.3 million in today's terms).

From his mid-20s, Key was earning a six-figure salary; within a few years his remuneration package was even more. During his time at Merrill Lynch, his base salary would have been more than US$250,000 ($336,138), topped up by a bonus of cash, shares and options on shares. Some years he would hand back the cash in exchange for more shares.

The options provided for a 10-year right to buy Merrill shares at the price of the day they were allocated, distributed at a rate of 20 per cent a year over five years. Options can be a gamble for executives, either worth a fortune or ending up worthless, depending on the performance of the company.

In Key's case, accumulating these shares through the period he was with the company (1995-2001) was lucrative. At the end of 1995, Merrill shares were trading at $12.75.

By the end of 2001, they were worth more than $52. Currency shifts also played into his hands. At their peak in 2006, when Key would still have owned a considerable portion, they were trading for more than $93. (Those he has held on to now, however, have significantly dropped in value, with Merrill stocks trading at about $30.)

Senior staff can accumulate thousands of shares.

Using the money he had made, Key invested in property and shares - the old adage that if you have money, you can make money was never truer.

By the time he returned to New Zealand in 2002, he was worth more than $50 million.

Where has he invested his money and where is it now? This is what public records reveal:

PROPERTY
St Stephens Ave, Parnell:
The family home

Key began purchasing this patch of land in 1997, buying up three properties to build a 763sq m dream home on a 0.235ha site, complete with cabana, swimming pool, spa and tennis court. The latest valuation lists the property as worth $6.82 million.

Success Court, Omaha:
The weekend getaway

Purchased in 1990 for $147,000 as a vacant site, this 240sq m holiday home is now worth $2.95 million.

State Highway 16, Kumeu:
The office

A simple building which serves as Key's electorate office. Purchased in August 2002 for $245,000.

Ho'olei, Maui, Hawaii:
The holiday home

With the Keys regularly visiting Hawaii for family holidays, they bought this tropical retreat in an exclusive resort this year, according to documents from the Hawaiian State Bureau of Conveyances.

The website describes it as featuring "spacious two-storey town homes with finely-appointed interiors, private elevators, and attached garages, marrying the virtues of a free-standing residence with the convenience of condominium living. Ho'olei has broad, west-facing ocean views and is surrounded on three sides by the Wailea Blue Golf Course". Key's apartment overlooks the golf-course. Price? A reported US$3.25 million.

London, UK:
The home away from home

An apartment owned by the family trust and lived in by one of Key's nieces. Location and price unknown.

FORMER PROPERTIES
Waimauku:
The electorate holding

A Victorian villa (pictured below) on a 2ha block in Waikoukou Valley Rd for which he paid $630,000 when he wanted a stake in his electorate. Became the centre of controversy when he listed himself on the electoral roll at this address, although he was actually living in a Remuera townhouse. Complaints about his actions over this went nowhere and Key cited legal advice that he was within his rights to list himself as living there. The house was put on the market in 2005.

The Remuera townhouse

The home the family lived in when they first arrived back in the country while their Parnell home was built. Key purchased the home in July 2001 for $1.65 million, and sold it two years later for the same price.

Australia:
The ex-holiday home

A get-away place across the Tasman recently sold. Location and value unknown.

SHARE PORTFOLIO
Tranz Rail

In February 2002, the JP and BI Key Family Trust bought 30,000 Tranz Rail shares from Sir Michael Fay and David Richwhite's company Midavia Rail Investments. Key sold them in June 2002, losing tens of thousands of dollars because of the collapse in the stock's value. Along with about 30 other investors, the trust is due to receive $30,000 in compensation as part of a deal struck by the Securities Commission over insider trading allegations.

The shares became a political controversy this month when it was alleged in Parliament that Key had failed to disclose his ownership of the shares while asking questions as the associate transport spokesman in late 2002. He had posed written questions to ministers over the proposed Government buy-back. He also asked oral questions in June 2003, but this was after he had already sold the shares.

Telecom

What has not been reported is that he also sold a 50,000 parcel of Telecom shares about the same time. The trust had bought the shares through Merrill Lynch in May 1999, and sold them through a UBS broker four years later. The transfer of shares began on July 25, 2003, the company's share register shows. Key had been appointed communications spokesman two days earlier. Asked about the transfer, he says he offloaded the shares to avoid a conflict of interest.

Other

Key says he has divested much of his portfolio to avoid potential conflicts and describes what remains as so bland as to be "vanilla". When he cashed up many of his shares he re-invested much in cash or bonds. He continues to own some Merrill Lynch shares (though he has sold much of his stake) and an American ski resort property investment called Little Nell, as well as shares in Australian company Jackson Mining. He says he is working out a structure for a blind trust, a vehicle for investing his money without him knowing what it is tied up in.


COMPANIES
Dairy Investment Fund

The trust is the third-biggest shareholder, with an 8 per cent stake, in the company Dairy Investment Fund. Other investors include Hugh Green Investments and dairy entrepreneur Geoff Taylor. Taylor is a director, along with Ian Holland, Simon Perry and Peter Schuyt.

The company invests in a variety of companies including NZ Milk Dairy Trading, the Grate Cheese Company, Kaimai Cheese, and Dairy Trust Ltd. Key says he is attempting to sell his stake in the Dairy Investment Fund to avoid any suggestion of conflict of interest.

His connection with the company was commented on by left-leaning blogs when he compared the Budget tax cuts to the price of a block of cheese.

Earl of Auckland

A property investment company he is a co-director of along with Brian Cocker, Leslie Graham, and Colin Leuschke. The company owns a commercial property in Eden St, Newmarket, bought in January 2001 for $520,000.

Tenants include a Pilates studio and the Leuschke's architecture firm. Key's business connection with Leuschke and Cocker was highlighted last year when the pair put into liquidation one of their other companies facing a leaky building lawsuit, Leuschke Group Architects.

Haunui Dairy

Another dairy investment company. Key owns 64 per cent of the company, which is being wound up. Haunui Dairy owned and operated a 200ha farm milking 650 cows at Tapanui, in Clutha. The company's original owners were Key, dairy entrepreneur Geoff Taylor, ANZ National rural banking head Charlie Graham and farmers Craig Burgess and Jean Lawson.

Burgess and Lawson had been sharemilkers on the farm when the previous owner decided to sell. They took a stake of about 40 per cent, and entered into an equity partnership arrangement with the other investors. The company owned the land, improvements, cows and machinery.

Burgess and Lawson later sold their stake to the others. Lawson says they met Key once and found him "very nice, down to earth". It had been a good arrangement for them, she said. The farm was bought in 2000-2001 for $3.4 million and was sold in 2006 (with a settlement date of May last year) for $5.4 million.

With the sale of the farm, Haunui Dairy has been placed into liquidation. The liquidators say all machinery has been sold and most of the company's affairs have been tidied up. No debts are owed, and the liquidator is simply waiting for the IRD to issue a small refund (about $900) before the company is officially wound up.

SUPERANNUATION SCHEMES

Key has declared in the Register of Pecuniary Interests of MPs that he also has an individual retirement plan and a scheme with IS & PL Singapore.