American made honorary knight

BY MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 06:00 31/12/2009

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New York investor and prominent philanthropist Julian Robertson has become New Zealand's first honorary knight.

The 77-year-old billionaire has become an honorary knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and philanthropy.

As an honorary knight, Mr Robertson may use the KNZM title and wear the insignia, but he will not become a "Sir".

Honorary knighthoods can be given to individuals who are not nationals of a country where the Queen is head of state.

Mr Robertson, whose worth was recently estimated at US$2.2 billion (NZ$3.08b) by Forbes magazine, is in the United States and unavailable for comment. He is a retired hedge fund manager who now invests in other hedge funds.

He was born in North Carolina and in 1980 founded one of the first hedge funds, Tiger Capital, with which he turned US$8 million into more than $22b in the late 1990s.

He first came to New Zealand in 1978, with the intention of writing a novel. The book never eventuated, but the trip gave him and his young family the first glimpse of the country he has come to call his second home.

Over the past 15 years he has been an active philanthropist and investor in New Zealand. He has developed two luxury golf courses at Kauri Cliffs in Northland and Cape Kidnappers in Hawke's Bay, and has invested in several wineries, including Dry River in Wairarapa and Te Awa in Hawke's Bay.

He has established scholarship programmes for students to attend Duke University and the University of North Carolina in the US as well as the Hood Fellowship Fund at the University of Auckland. He contributes to several organisations, including the University of Auckland Foundation, Emirates Team New Zealand and Matauri Bay School.

In May, he and wife Josie donated 15 major art works worth $115m to Auckland Art Gallery.

In giving the pieces, which included paintings by Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin and Piet Mondrian, the Robertsons said: "We have had a life-long love affair with New Zealand. We love Auckland and we love these pictures. That's why we were so pleased when we brought these works to New Zealand that New Zealanders seemed to enjoy them as much as we do."

It was the largest gift made to an art gallery in Australasia.

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- The Dominion Post

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