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RICH LIST 2014: John Key's wealth jumps $5 million

Rob Hosking
Fri, 01 Aug 2014

Prime Minister John Key can be expected to laugh off his Rich List ranking this year, as he usually does.

Previous years have ranked Mr Key as being worth around $50 million, with a portfolio, which includes properties in the Parnell suburb of Auckland (where he lives), along with Hawaii, London and Aspen, Colorado.

All those areas have had double-digit growth in property values in recent years. Aspen was recently rated as having the most expensive real estate city in the United States.

Mr Key’s standard line about his Rich List ranking is it is “just a guess” and on one occasion, provoked in Parliament by then-Labour leader Phil Goff, claimed the figure was made up.

He does not comment on the figure.

Yet the author of the recent friendly biography of Mr Key, John Roughan, concluded the Rich List ranking likely stacks up.

“That NBR estimate was probably close to the mark,” Mr Roughan wrote in the biography published two months ago.

The reason for that is unlike other senior executives at his time at Merrill Lynch, Mr Key chose to be paid totally in stock and options rather than on a 40%, 40%, 20%, cash, stock and options mix.

This was in 1995 when Mr Key joined Merrill Lynch in New York: Mr Key told Mr Roughan the reason he took that route was he thought the company’s stock was under-valued.

“By the time he left the firm at the end of 2001 he would have been paid in Merrill Lynch's appreciating stock for nearly seven years,” Mr Roughan wrote.

“That figure of $50 million for his personal wealth was probably close to the mark."

This year’s Rich List upgrades Mr Key to being worth $55 million.

See the NBR Rich List 2014 here (premium member subscriber content); John Key's Rich List profile here.

Rob Hosking
Fri, 01 Aug 2014
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RICH LIST 2014: John Key's wealth jumps $5 million