Talley’s has come a long way since Yugoslav immigrant Ivan Talijancich opened a fish shop in Motueka in 1936 and bought a trawler to supply it.
When his sons Peter and Michael took over the business in 1964 they wasted no time developing it into the agribusiness empire that it is today.
In the 1980s they were quick to maximise returns from fishing quotas and turned their initial 3% quota into the estimated 20% they own today, making tens of millions of dollars along the way.
Since then the brothers, along with Peter’s son Andrew, have branched out into meat, dairy, vegetables, aquaculture and hospitality.
Today Talley’s owns four fish processing plants and a fleet of trawlers, eight Affco meat plants, various vegetable farms, the Rutherford Hotel in Nelson and a 53% stake in milk processor Open Country.
Despite its high profile it is difficult to get an exact handle on the company’s finances as the Talleys are notoriously media shy and balk at appearing on the NBR Rich List.
They have a reputation for being ruthless businessmen who drive a hard bargain.
Last year they became involved in a bitter 12-week industrial dispute with the Meatworkers Union.
But they are also pragmatists, joining forces with the Council of Trade Unions this year in an attempt to put foreign charter vessels under the control of New Zealand labour laws.
Nelson MP Nick Smith has been reported as saying they are tough but fair.
“They are very patriotic New Zealanders and very loyal to Nelson.
“If they were driven purely by profit they would have relocated long ago.
“Businesses like theirs are needed (and) we don’t have enough of them.”