Plans are progressing for a new Auckland waterfront boutique hotel costing up to $1800 a night and two American-style restaurants employing up to 150 people.

New Zealand-born Melbourne-based multimillionaire Andrew Cox, 46, who owns Queenstown's award-winning Eichardt's Private Hotel and has the Australasian franchise for restaurant chain TGI Friday's, has bought a leasehold interest in a second Queenstown hotel and said he hopes to be able to announce further moves for a new Auckland hotel soon.

His Imperium Group bought the leasehold rights to Queenstown's boutique The Spire Hotel, with 10 rooms and views to Lake Wakatipu.

Cox was in Queenstown last week saying the tourist hub presented him with big opportunities and he was also keen to get established in Auckland because it was this country's tourist gateway.


He is negotiating to lease a low-rise three to four-level CBD waterfront heritage Auckland building where he said 15 rooms would cost from $750 a night to $1800 a night. He will pay for the fitout.

"It will become non-confidential when everything is signed and that's a work in progress. The vast majority of tourists come through Auckland and Auckland doesn't have any ultra-luxury boutique hotels," he said.

Cox plans to open TGI Friday's of 450sq m to 600sq m in two Auckland locations.

"We're continuing to investigate the locations in Auckland - one in the CBD and one in the fringe suburban area.

"These go well in malls, leisure and entertainment precincts.

"I'm building another one in Westfield Doncaster in Melbourne and another two sites in Sydney that are very close to being finalised," he said. "Auckland would be more like 2015 to 2016.

"We've certainly had a lot of approaches from landlords," Cox said.

In Australia, Cox employs more than 700 people and Imperium, which he owns with his wife, Sarah, has annual revenue of more than A$100 million ($110 million).

In February, he told how Eichardt's had been so successful that he was considering buying a second Queenstown hotel and said New Zealand had turned the corner economically after the global financial crisis.

TGI Friday's restaurants employ on average 80 people each and have annual revenue of about $6 million. Cox operates nine outlets in Australia.