HILL Sir Michael
The undoubted highlight in the past year for the jewellery king was the staging of the first NZPGA Pro-Am Championship at “the most beautiful place on the planet.” This is Sir Michael’s description of The Hills, his privately owned golf course at Arrowtown and winner of several awards for its architecture. The pro-am, held over four days in late March, attracted thousands of competitors, caddies, volunteers and spectators from New Zealand and overseas.
It was Sir Michael’s response to losing the hosting rights to the NZ Golf Open, which was held at The Hills from 2007-10. That brought significant dollars into the local economy and the pro-am, based on tournaments held at Pebble Beach and St Andrews, potentially will bring in many more because of the number of participants. “The golf could be bigger than skiing and brings Queenstown high-yield visitors who spend the money,” Sir Michael says. “Our vision is to make the NZPGA Pro-Am Championship one of the most significant golf events in the world and we can do it because we live on the most beautiful place on the planet, so that’s a huge start.”
Next year’s event, to be held a month early from February 28-March 3, promises to be bigger and better. Sir Michael’s commitment to philanthropic gestures extends to his second love, music, with the biennial Michael Hill International Violin competition. The 2011 winner, Russia’s Sergey Malov, held concerts in 16 centres in June as part of his prize.
The 2013 competition will be held from June 1-8 in Queenstown and Auckland. Meanwhile, the Hills’ international jewellery business is having another solid year, with sales forecast to reach a record $500 million in the June year, reflecting increases in New Zealand, Canada and the US. The company has plans for its own finance operation in North America. While sales have been soft in Australia, the chain has expansion plans there as well. The business is worth around $400 million on the stock exchange.