JONES Sir Robert
When he appeared on last year’s NBR Rich List, Sir Robert Jones offered a rosy financial forecast for New Zealand. Compared to most countries, New Zealand was in pretty good shape, he said.
The property magnate and survivor of five “depressions” does not now resile from his 2011 opinion that there’s no better place than here. “That’s self-evidently true. Where’s better? You might go to Abu Dhabi, or somewhere freaky like that.
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There’s still room for improvement in New Zealand “but the world is in a pretty grim state,” Sir Robert says.
His company, Robt Jones Holdings (RJH) is in fine shape. This year it marks its 50th anniversary and it continues to boast a solid property portfolio that touches both sides of the Tasman. RJH has approximately $1 billion of commercial and industrial property in Auckland, Wellington and Sydney. The Jones strategy is to buy in the right place at the right price and then to hang on to the buildings and maintain them well. Although he doesn’t have much to do with the day-to day management of his businesses – “my involvement is solely involved with the acquisition of new buildings and their enhancement” – he still gets a thrill from the business of buying. “There is an element of the hunt about buying a building,” says Sir Robert – who adds he has given up fishing because he believes it’s too cruel.
Last year, he and a related trust won a $4 million negligence case against their former accountants. It was a “weird” thing, involving bad behaviour, Sir Robert says.
Would he be able to achieve what he has if he were starting out now? “I reckon it’s easier [now]. I wasn’t trying to get rich; it was an accident. But I made an awful lot of money.”