Tech entrepreneur Tony Lentino dies
Entrepreneur and motorsport backer Tony Lentino, 42, has died after a 15-month battle with a rare form of small cell cancer.
He was the owner of Super Black Racing NZ in the Australian Supercars series, and it was team members who announced the passing of their boss on Twitter. He died quietly at his home in Wellsford north of Auckland.
Born in Napier and raised in Melbourne, Mr Lentino left school at 15. He made his fortune through a company that sold domain names (internet addresses) worldwide and quietly grew to 50 staff spread across offices in New Zealand and Australia. In December, he sold OnlyDomains to the UK-based Centralnic Group for $35 million.
The businessman hit the limelight in January 2013 at the launch of Kim Dotcom's Mega when it was revealed he was the largest outside investor in the new file sharing site and its inaugural chief executive.
He told NBR he met Mr Dotcom when the German asked to use the private airstrip on Mr Lentino's Wellsford property to race cars.
The two became close and Mr Lentino covered rent on the "Dotcom mansion" and living expenses for Mr Dotcom's wife and children to the tune of around $250,000 in the months after the accused pirate's arrest. He was angered by what he saw as over-the-top tactics by police.
Beyond their shared interest in cars and online business, the modest, self-effacing, Mr Lentino and the blingy Mr Dotcom seemed an odd-couple.
The Wellsford man soon pulled back from the day-to-day running of Mega.
In May 2014, he quit and sold his shareholding. When NBR asked why, he replied: "I got involved two and half years ago because of principles and that is also why I left."
He would not elaborate but his decision to walk coincided with Kim Dotcom roping in TRS an effort to reverse list on the NZX; the bid failed amid publicity that TRS majority shareholder Paul Choiselat was facing 25 securities charges in Australia.
Later the same year, Mr Lentino was identified as the backer for "Freed," a news site planned by Cameron Slater and Regan Cunliffe. The project foundered after Mr Lentino received his cancer diagnosis.
Tony Lentino onstage with Kim Dotcom's US attorney Ira Rothken at the Mega launch in January, 2013. He won over NBR by dressing down, drinking beer and looking awkward on-stage during the champagne-and-bling event.