Irish-Kiwi property developer dies

Last updated 07:48 24/09/2012
eamon cleary
PROPERTY DEVELOPER: Irish-Kiwi property developer Eamon Cleary died in Kentucky.

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One of New Zealand's wealthiest businessmen, Eamon Cleary, who has extensive southern connections, has died at his horse stud in Kentucky.

The Irish-Kiwi property magnate was born in 1960 in County Monagha, Ireland, and was a fixture in the top-10 of New Zealand's NBR Rich List.

Earlier this year, the National Business Review estimated he was worth $1.2 billion, with a range of assets across four continents.

Yesterday, Barry Robinette, farm manager at Clear Sky Farms, a horse stud in Lexington, Kentucky, which Cleary established in 2009, confirmed the Irishman had died on Saturday.

A source who did business with Cleary during his time in the South Island said the "great character" had been sick with cancer for about six months.

Cleary's family could not be reached for comment.

His early career included working in the building industry, but by 1991 he had built one of Ireland's largest agriculture supply companies.

After selling the business, he moved to New Zealand in about 1994, using the proceeds to invest in farming, building a fortune converting sheep farms to dairy farms. Initially focused on the North Island, he later based himself in Central Otago.

For a time he owned the 22,000-hectare Coronet Peak Station, although last year he sold it to Robert “Mutt” Lange, the former husband of singer Shania Twain.

Mr Cleary was well known for his property developments around the Queenstown area and faced public criticism in 2009 when he was accused of deliberately neglecting historic cottages built in the 1870s in Arrowtown. The cottages were later bought by the Queenstown Lakes District Council for $1.9 million. A year earlier, the Supreme Court quashed his attempts to develop Big River Paradise, a subdivision plan for the banks of the Clutha River, near Wanaka.

Although he later became a resident of tax-haven Malta, Cleary still owned farm land and commercial property in New Zealand.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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