Out of pocket by more than $6 million, a philosophical Sir Owen Glenn is apparently OK about ending his stoush with fellow NBR Rich Lister Eric Watson over their joint ownership of the Warriors. His solution is to put the dosh into a trust bearing his name that will support the game at grassroots level.
He was back in New Zealand recently announcing a $5 million donation to the University of Auckland’s Business School to kickstart an innovation and entrepreneurship programme – and to open the national aquatic centre in Auckland after pledging $3.85 million to the project.
It’s a welcome change of heart on the philanthropy front. Last year, Sir Owen had become so disillusioned by New Zealand’s attitude toward tall poppies and a media obsessed with unearthing scandal that he announced the closure of his local charitable foundation and said he would concentrate on charitable efforts offshore. However, he did carry on with the Glenn Inquiry into domestic abuse, releasing a report which estimated that annual costs related to child abuse and family violence had topped $4 billion.
Now, he’d like the government to change the way philanthropic donations are taxed to encourage more wealthy folk to put money back into New Zealand charities or invest in startups.
Normally resident offshore, Sir Owen has hit the headlines for reasons other than philanthropy. Last year’s spat with Mr Watson turned out to have a lot more than a $6 million half-share in the NRL team at stake. A British Virgin Islands court ruling released late last year revealed that Sir Owen had poured $232 million into their joint venture vehicle Spartan Capital, which has millions already invested in UK property plus a war chest of $200m.
The court ruled in Sir Owen’s favour, quashing Eric Watson’s moves to shut down Sir Owen’s attempt to liquidate a company the latter claims has been a bit one-sided in terms of capital injection.
Last year, Sir Owen was suing former friend and business partner David Miller for the $400 million he had put into trust accounts over which he no longer had control. That stoush was being played out in the Caribbean tax-haven of Nevis but had local implications when source money for promised donations to New Zealand charities dried up.
This year, Sir Owen probably felt more kindly toward the world in general – and the racing industry in particular – when his favourite horse, Criterion delivered a $2 million windfall after surging to its biggest career win at April’s Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes in Sydney.
Based in Monaco, Sir Owen keeps a keen eye on Kiwi-bred horses. Criterion was born and raised at Matamata’s Blandford Lodge, which Sir Owen owns with Graham and Helen-Gaye Bax. This year, he cracked the first half-million sale at the Karaka yearling sales after “falling in love” with a promising filly. It’s expected to cross the Tasman for training and, if her promise is realised, may end up as mating potential for Criterion when he goes to stud.