Rich Lister Eamon Cleary dies

Eamon Cleary

Irish-born Kiwi multi-millionaire Eamon Cleary died at his Kentucky horse stud last weekend.

Mr Cleary featured in the NBR Rich List with an estimated fortune of $1.2 billion invested around the world.

However, Irish friends always maintained estimates of his global wealth were too low, particularly for his investments in South America, and he was worth well over $2 billion.  

According to overseas reports he'd had cancer in recent months.

Honorary Consul General of Ireland, Rodney Walshe, convinced Mr Cleary to bankroll a chair in Irish studies at University of Otago.

Mr Walshe describes Mr Cleary as "a typical Irishman". 

"He was very wealthy but to talk to him and to travel with him you'd have no idea of his wealth.

"He was very driven and he was very pleased to work with the University of Otago to set up that chair, which was a first."

Queenstown was a particular focus for Mr Cleary, who owned commercial properties, farms and high country stations there.

He sold 22,000ha Coronet Peak Station to Robert Lange, the former husband of singer Shania Twain, who earlier acquired another nearby high country station.

At the time of his death he still owned several residential properties at Lake Hayes, near Queenstown, mostly grouped in a new subdivision around Sicilian and Kavanagh Lanes.

Left school at 11

Mr Cleary was born in County Monaghan - near the town of Ballybay - in 1960 and left school at 11 to work on his father's small farm.

According to the University of Otago website, he was apprenticed to a block layer at 15 and started his own building business two years later.

At 20, he started a pre-cast concrete and reinforcing steel company, while continuing with his building business.

He married at 24.

Mr Cleary went on to develop one of the largest agricultural supply businesses in Ireland, which he sold in 1991.

By 1996, he had moved to New Zealand and established a business career, with substantial investments in agricultural land and commercial property in both the North and South Islands.

He had extensive business and property interests in Australia, Eastern Europe, Ireland and New Zealand, and developed agricultural and telecommunications businesses in Argentina and Chile. 

Mr Cleary has eight children. 

He was the proud owner of Rand, a thoroughbred that represented NZ in the Nakayama Grand Jump (Japan’s Grand National).

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