Proud, passionate' Southlander in control

DON WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 01/10/2013

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Former Invercargill businessman Dean McKenzie is a classic example of Southlanders who have made their way in life because they are prepared to capitalise on opportunities in a new era.

The former Invercargill accountant and racing administrator is now the chief executive of the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club at Addington and a former chief executive of Jade Stadium in the Garden City.

The father of two and former Southland Racing Club general manager has had a raft of high-profile employment career positions since gaining academic qualifications at Otago University and Ohio University in the United States, including, now, director of the Esportif International (NZ) Ltd, overseeing the sports management consultancy work the company undertakes.

"The company has completed a wide variety of project work in many sports, including basketball, netball, thoroughbred racing, sports facility management and harness racing," he said.

"The work has included sponsorship/naming rights, event planning and co-ordination, governance reviews, business case development, financial modelling and funding presentations."

The company represents many professional rugby players and deals closely with athlete management services, including contract negotiation, wealth creation, career planning and endorsement opportunities.

New Zealand apart, clients were also based in France, Japan, Italy, Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom, he said.

His earlier position as Jade Stadium chief executive involved reporting to the chairman of the board on numerous matters, while growing company revenue about 300 per cent in three years.

He also successfully negotiated and implemented a 35-year "anchor" base agreement with the Canterbury Rugby Football Union.

His earlier positions as special projects manager of the New Zealand Racing Industry Board and chief executive of Racing Wellington provided him with valuable insights into his present Addington position.

"Racing, as a percentage of our total business operation, now accounts for about 50 per cent," he said.

"Our overall revenue of $20 million annually is split basically 50-50 with $10m from racing and another $10m from other activities, including rentals of company property and our conference and events centre business," he said.

It was vital that other activities underpinned the actual racing side of the business.

Cup Day racing in November 2012 was marked by the largest turnover in either main code of New Zealand racing at about $6m in total.

On an average day weather-wise last year, 23,000 attended Cup Day racing, with course betting of about $1.65m.

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The club will apply a maximum capacity of 25,000 for its November 12 Cup Day this season.

Looking to the future, McKenzie observed: "Every week behind us after the earthquakes is a bonus and we have budgeted to pay about $7.2m in stakes, up about 11 per cent on what we paid out last season.

"We paid out $6.48m last year and stage the biggest racing day of the year in the country, turnover-wise. We host 170 harness and greyhound meetings in a season and 50-odd trials days at the raceway, also operating an events centre and a valuable rental property portfolio of about 10,000 square metres."

He pointed out that about 750,000 people attended activities and events at the raceway, stadium and arena.

"The overall facility operates seven days a week now with a bar and bistro to cater for demand of folk attending all events on the Addington footprint. The complex is now the sporting and entertainment hub of Christchurch, with huge rugby interest at the adjoining stadium."

McKenzie makes no bones about being a "proud and passionate Southlander" and attributes a wonderful start in life to the encouragement and support of business identities John McGrath and Stu Perkins (then Coopers and Lybrand) and racing administrator Russell Freeman (Harrington and Partners) who "turned around a wayward youth".

"The influence and inspiration gained from my wife, Anna, a former Southlander, and kids Angus and Hunter over the years has been the overall key though, no doubt about that," he said.

Family influences of late maternal grandfather Doug Tait, his uncle Alistair Tait and his late father Alister McKenzie also played a big part in his start to business life.

He and his father were on the board of directors of Craigs Print and Design Ltd. Dean's earlier business experience included a stint on Southern Sting's board.

"It would be remiss of me not to also acknowledge the valued rugby and racing support in a personal sense of four loyal and successful Southland friends and participants in brothers Brent, Grant and Gordon McKenzie, also Paul Cosgrove, all of whom have been very influential in many ways."

- The Southland Times

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