Gina linked to CBD sale

GREG NINNESS
Last updated 05:00 16/02/2014
Gina Rinehart
GINA RINEHART: The rumoured owner of Blackett's Building, on the corner of Queen and Shortland Streets in Auckland's CBD.

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One of the country's most historic buildings, long rumoured to be owned by Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, is up for sale.

Blackett's Building, on the corner of Queen and Shortland Streets in Auckland's CBD, was built in 1878-1879 and is described by the NZ Historic Places Trust as one of the earliest surviving structures in Queen St.

"Blackett's Building is one of the finest examples in Auckland of commercial architecture from the second half of last century. It is also one of very few buildings of this period left in Auckland," according to the Historic Places Trust website.

Last week the building was advertised for sale but the identity of its ultimate owner is a mystery.

Both the Blackett's Building and the even more historic Ferry Building on Auckland's waterfront, have long been rumoured to be owned by interests associated with the Australian mining magnate.

Last month Forbes Magazine estimated Rinehart's fortune at A$20.3 billion, making her Australia's richest person.

When the Sunday Star-Times emailed Rinehart, via her principal business Hancock Prospecting, to ask whether her family interests also intended to sell the Ferry Building, Hancock's information manager Mark Bickerton responded that "Hancock Prospecting does not have, and never has had, any ownership interest in the Blackett's Building."

But Bickerton did not refute the assertion that Rinehart's family interests ultimately owned both buildings.

However the Blackett's Building's previous owner, Auckland property investor

Ross Healy, said his understanding was that it was sold to a trust associated with Rinehart.

"We sold it to a funny trust name, but effectively the ownership was, I understand, back to her. I think her son [John Hancock] came over to do the deal," Healy said.

Property records show Blackett's Building is jointly owned by two Cayman Islands-registered companies, Xakeila Holdings Ltd and Orizaba Holdings Ltd.

The two companies appear to be mirror images of each other, with identical company details, sets of accounts and the same owner, Queens Ferry Ltd, which is also believed to be a Cayman Islands-registered company.

It is not known who the ultimate owners of Queen Ferry Ltd are. Xakeila and Orizaba also own the Ferry Building's leasehold title, with Auckland Council owning the underlying freehold land title. Property records show that Xakeila and Orizaba acquired their leasehold interest in the Ferry Building in 1986, and bought the Blackett's Building in 2000.

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Auckland accountant Stephen Bootten, a director of Xakeila and Orizaba, said he could not divulge who the ultimate owners of the Blackett's Building and the Ferry Building were, but said rumours they were owned by interests associated with Rinehart were incorrect.

Ownership of the Blackett's Building could go full circle and return to Healy, who is well known for refurbishing heritage buildings. When asked if he'd consider buying it back, Healy replied: "We might revisit it."

- Sunday Star Times

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