Obituary: Seafood and racing titan Philip Vela

The seafood and racing industries are mourning the passing of Philip Vela.

The seafood and racing industries are mourning the death of Philip Vela.

The NBR Rich Lister died peacefully surrounded by family at his home in Te Kowhai, near Hamilton.

He is survived by his wife, Lyn, daughters Andrea and Anita, and four grandchildren, Alice, Justin, Claudia and Alexander. 

Philip was the son of Filip Vela, a Croatian immigrant who moved to New Zealand in the late 1920s and started fishing.

Together with his brother Peter, Philip developed his father’s business into what has become one of the country's largest privately owned fishing companies, Vela Fishing.

The pair were early pioneers in the development of hoki, orange roughy, tuna and squid fisheries.

Vela Fishing was the first to export New Zealand fillet products to the British market; and the first to produce and export sea-frozen hoki fillets to the US market.

The chief executive of industry body Deepwater Group, George Clement described Mr Vela as a “huge presence, great fun to be with and intellectually challenging.”

The Velas were also instrumental in rescuing and developing the country’s thoroughbred industry.

The pair bought Wrightson Bloodstock in 1997 and developed this into the internationally renowned New Zealand Bloodstock based at Karaka.

The Vela family were valued at $210 million on 2014’s NBR Rich List.

Mr Vela’s funeral will be held this Friday.

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