Sale of his Fusion Electronics business to Garmin confirmed, but Sir Peter says retirement comments were joke

UPDATE / July 18: Sir Peter Maire has told the NZ Herald that his comments to NBR, "I am done with the business world. I've started, built up and sold half a dozen companies and am now retired from the game. I'm living in Croatia on my boat. The rest of my life is now to be devoted to my family" were meant in jest.

The NZ Herald reports, "Maire told the Herald he made the comments after being approached by a journalist who was compiling information about wealthy New Zealanders.

"So I told him I sold all my companies and gave all the money to charity," he said. "In other words I politely told him to F off."

Sir Peter has sold his flagship business, Fusion Electronics, as confirmed by Garmin in a statement. Garmin did not disclosed the price. Sir Peter declined to discuss the price unless NBR named the industry insider who discussed the deal with NBR.

He said he had no plans to sell his second business, Fusion Transactive, which sells retail systems for petrol stations.

July 14: NBR Rich Lister Peter Maire has sold Fusion Electronics to American navigation giant, Garmin for approximately $20 million, a person close to the deal says.

Companies Office records show Sir Peter owning 90% of Fusion Electronics through his Tahia Investments vehicle. The Garmin deal closed on June 30 and he expects records to be shortly updated. Fusion makes entertainment systems for boats, cars and homes, though is best known for its marine systems.

Sir Maire did not speak on the specifics of the Garmin deal, but when approached for his NBR Rich List 2014 profile, he said: 

"I am done with the business world. I've started, built up and sold half a dozen companies and am now retired from the game. I'm living in Croatia on my boat. The rest of my life is now to be devoted to my family."

He was in the process of offloading all his commercial interests, donating most of the proceeds to charity.

Sir Peter is best known as the founder of Navman, which he sold to US company Brunswick in 2004 for $104 million. At the time, the North Shore Auckland-based company, which had close to 400 staff, was a pioneer in GPS systems for cars — a market that has now become commoditised, and under siege from free smartphone apps.

He joined the board of Orion Health, now an IPO candidate and going head-to-head with Xero as New Zealand's largest software company.

However, two large tech bets went south.

Sir Peter took a 20% stake in high-flying Rakon (as well as a seat on its board) only to see its shares plummet. The maker of high tech components for GPS systems continues to be under pressure.

And along with the Todd Family, he was a major investor in Eftpos product provider ProvencoCadmus, which collapsed into receivership in 2009 owing $26.8 million.

Sir Peter bought the petroleum division of ProvencoCadmus acquired from the receiver and renamed it Fusion Transactive. In 2013 he told NBR he was whipping the business into shape.

It had, he said, "A great team which has now won 80% of the New Zealand petroleum retail systems foot print including Z, BP, Mobil and Foodstuffs. We developed a brand new world-beating outdoor payments terminal pay-at-pump and, by partnering with Wincor, we won a 24-country system tender for Shell International that for us is valued in the tens of millions."

Companies Office records show Sir Peter still owning 60% of the business. He says his sell-down is a work in progress.

The sale of Fusion Electronics to Garmin is already a done deal.

Fusion Electronics will now be known as Garmin New Zealand Limited but will trade as Fusion Entertainment. When interviewed for his 2013 Rich List profile, Sir Peter said it has around 56 staff and $30 million of worldwide sales had just made a profit after several years of losses.

The billion-dollar tech giant Garmin designs, develops, manufactures and markets a range of hand-held and fixed-mount GPS-enabled products in the automotive, outdoor, fitness, marine and aviation markets. The company’s 2013 financial statements revealed it had a turnover of $US2.6 billion.

In May 61% of polled NBR member subscribers said the government should not try harder to keep tech companies locally owned while 39% said the government should make an effort to keep them on NZ shores.

Sir Peter remains a director of Crown agency Callaghan Innovation, which has been at the centre of the debate over companies that have received millions in government grants, only to be sold offshore.

But otherwise he should achieve his wish of stepping back from the limelight, and being struck off the NBR Rich List. Between a couple of poor investment bets and donating money to charity, it's unlikely he'll make the 2014 list's $50 million cut off.

The NBR Rich List 2014 is out August 1.

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