The question many people continue to ask is how Graeme Hart keeps doing what he does while still keeping his equilibrium.
This country’s richest man has built a fortune investing directly in companies while taking on eye-watering amounts of debt.
His Reynolds Group Holdings is now the world’s largest packaging supplier, ahead of Tetra-Pak and Amcor, with annual revenues of about $US14 billion ($17.4 billion), just shy of Fonterra’s record $19.8 billion last financial year.
At last count, however, Reynolds was carrying $US18.14 billion of debt secured by total assets of $US22.51 billion as at the end of December.
By any measure these numbers tell a story of Mr Hart’s audacious fearlessness, especially given the events of the past five years.
Members of the local investment community look on in awe.
“Whatever his affairs are, they are very, very well structured … you just don’t last as long as he has and continue to hit runs as he has unless you’re on top of your game,” says one Kiwi investment banker.
Mr Hart, who maintains a low media profile, keeps a small group of smart people around him, helping him on mammoth deals like the $US5 billion Graham Packaging and Pactiv takeovers of recent years.
“He’s a very loyal fellow and never gets too fazed by what’s going on around him.”
It’s not unusual for his team of dealmakers to lock themselves in a room for a weekend working on a transaction. More often than not Mr Hart will provide the master stroke for the deal.
While there has been some speculation Mr Hart might look at floating Reynolds it is unlikely to happen any time soon.
Reynolds chief executive Tom Degnan told US analysts recently that an IPO was not being contemplated. However, Mr Hart does wish to reduce Reynolds’ leverage from the current 6.3 times operating earnings to 5.5 times.
Meanwhile, Mr Hart is not shy about adding to his personal assets – recently adding on to the $30 million clifftop home where he and his wife Robyn live in Riddell Rd, Auckland.
The 2ha property now includes a huge three-level banquet hall with a pool and piazza area to complement the main mansion, summer house, guest quarters and tennis court.
He also owns property on Waiheke Island, two super yachts – the 190-foot yacht, Ulysses and the 77m Project Weta (also known as Hull U77), a property in Aspen and an island in Fiji.