Peter Vela has been made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) for services to the thoroughbred industry.
He founded Vela Fishing with his brother Philip in 1976.
The company is now the biggest privately owned fishing quota holder in New Zealand and played a key role in developing international markets for seafood.
Vela has been active in horse racing and breeding for more than 40 years as an owner, breeder and TAB board member.
Together, Peter and Philip bred and raced Caulfield and Melbourne cups winner Ethereal.
Vela bought Wrightson Bloodstock in 1996, renaming it New Zealand Bloodstock.
At the time, Wrightson Bloodstock, a subsidiary of Wrightson Ltd, had been running New Zealand's premier yearling sale for 70 years.
Vela set up a leasing and financing business to help breeders buy bloodstock, and in 1998 he established New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing to promote New Zealand thoroughbreds around the world. He also helped sponsor Sir Mark Todd's Olympic efforts.
Vela said he was humbled by the knighthood.
"It's certainly not something you ever set out to attain, or consider might ever happen for that matter," he said.
He said it was a "huge surprise" and a "great honour".
He said he had respect for the systems that celebrated excellence in its many forms.
Vela said the biggest challenges he faced in business were the high cost of capital to fund growth and development in his early days. Today the biggest challenge was the high value of the New Zealand dollar.
Vela said the thoroughbred industry had "grown massively" and "changed dramatically" during his time in the business.
"Shuttle stallions have internationalised the industry and international racing events have enabled New Zealand to showcase their excellence with a number of New Zealand horses being named as the best in the world in the international classifications in their respective years - So You Think, Sunline, Ethereal, Might and Power, and just last year Little Bridges was a convincing winner of the Group 1 Sprint at Royal Ascot," he said.
Vela said young Kiwi businesspeople needed to be prepared to take risks "but remember success only precedes work in the dictionary".
During the past 30 years he had travelled to develop export opportunities for the New Zealand fishing and thoroughbred industries, he said.
Earlier this year, Peter and Philip Vela split their business interests, with Peter taking over all the racing and bloodstock, while Philip took over their fisheries interests.
The Vela family's net worth was reported at $200 million in this year's NBR Rich List.
- © Fairfax NZ News