Eric Watson (businessman)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search

Eric Watson (born 1959) is a New Zealand businessman, now resident in London. In 2011, the National Business Review listed Watson as the 30th richest New Zealander.[1]


His first job on leaving school was as a butcher's apprentice. He later became a sales and branch manager at Whitcoulls and then a manager for Xerox.[2]


He left Xerox in 1992 to start the Blue Star Group.[3]


Watson and business partner Mark Hotchin bought Elders Finance in 1999. Elders, and a number of other finance companies, were brought together to create Hanover Group.[4] In July 2008 the finance companies within Hanover Group froze repayments, suspending acceptance of new deposits.[4]

Hanover paid dividends of NZ$41 million in the 2007 financial year and NZ$45.5 million in the 2008 financial year.[5] The following financial year, NZ$68.5m was contributed to Hanover by entities associated with Watson and Hotchin.[5]

In December 2009 Hanover Group debenture holders, note holders and bond holders voted in favour of swapping their debentures, notes and bonds for shares in Allied Farmers Limited (NZX: ALF). This transaction resulted in ALF assuming the net asset position of the Hanover Group finance companies.[6]

When Hanover collapsed, causing significant losses for many small investors, concerns were raised about Hanover group's true financial position, its solvency when paying dividends, transactions that may have benefited related parties, and the accuracy of asset valuations.[7]

Cullen Investments[edit]

Watson founded Cullen Investments in 1995 and is currently the executive chairman of the international private investment company.[8] The company has interests in the following sectors; fashion retail, financial services, agriculture, real estate and sports and entertainment.[9] Watson has actively invested his own capital in a range of mergers and acquisitions. Cullen's primary focus is development of its international portfolio, which includes interests in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.[9]

Through Cullen Investments Watson owns Bendon Lingerie. First launched in New Zealand, the company now has sales channels in Australia, US, UK, Europe and the UAE. The brand includes ranges from Elle Macpherson [clarification needed] who helped launch the brand into the UK and Europe,[10] and Stella McCartney.[11]

Through Cullen Investments Watson bought a 75% stake in the New Zealand Warriors in 2000,[12] which competes in the Australasian National Rugby League (NRL) and is New Zealand's largest and highest-profile privately owned sporting franchise. He has since reduced his share to 50% while selling off the other half to New Zealand billionaire Owen Glenn.

Cullen Agricultural Holdings is an 85% owned subsidiary of Cullen Investments of which Watson is chief executive and chairman. The business planned to use New Zealand farming techniques to cut costs on as much as 16,000 hectares of mainly dairy farmland in the US. Some land has been divested with the proceeds repaying capital invested by Cullen Holdings.[citation needed]

Cullen has an international property portfolio, including commercial assets and residential development, predominantly in New Zealand, the US and UK. Major assets in New Zealand include Westbury Estate, while offshore investments include an upmarket property portfolio in London.[13]

The Watson Foundation is a charitable trust established by Cullen Investments. The main objectives of the Watson Foundation are to enrich the lives of underprivileged children and young people and assist with their needs, including care, support, protection, health and education. The foundation sponsors charities such as The First Tee of New Zealand.[14]


He was previously married to Nicola Watson, a model now known as Nicola Robinson.[15] He has two young sons by his Swedish partner, model Lisa Henrekson.[16]


  1. ^ "The Rich List at a Glance (Wealth order)". The National Business Review. 27 July 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  2. ^ McNabb, Denise (27 September 2010). "Assembling a fortune, deal after deal". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "Eric Watson: Executive Profile & Biography". Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Taylor, Phil (19 February 2011). "Mark Hotchin: The man behind the money". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Staff (2008). "BC10056892687.pdf". Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  6. ^ "Hanover investors vote yes to Allied Farmers deal". Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "Eric Watson not surprised SFO closing case". 
  8. ^ "Profile of Eric J. Watson". Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "Cullen Investments". Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  10. ^ "Elle fronts Bendon's UK launch – The Press". Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  11. ^ "Stella McCartney to release first lingerie collection in February 2008". Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  12. ^ "Warrior chief living life to the Maximus". 28 September 2003. Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  13. ^ "Luxury estate ideal corporate retreat or idyllic personal getawayNews". 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2011. 
  14. ^ "The First Tee of New Zealand View Library Document: Sponsors". Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  15. ^ "'Newsboy' Wells & Watson most sexy". NZ Entertainment news. Retrieved 1 August 2008. 
  16. ^ "Eric Watson moves on from cardies to cows as Sardinia beckons". NZ Herald. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2011.