Phil Veal, the chief executive of Rangatira Investments, which owns two of the country’s most iconic attractions, has resigned and will leave his role in November.
Rangatira owns Auckland’s Rainbow’s End and Rotorua’s Polynesian Spa. It is the second high profile resignation in six weeks from the group with Rainbow’s End chief executive Chris Deere stepping down in August.
Veal, who has been leading Rangatira for the past three years, told the Ticker he had “no other plans at the moment, although I probably won’t sit still forever”.
“It’s the right time to move on. We started a process of modernising Rangatira and the company is now in extremely good shape and ready for someone else to take it on.”
During his tenure, the company had refocused its strategy back on co-investing with families – a strategy that had served it well with Polynesian Spa.
The company owns 51% of the attraction with the family of Polynesian Spa founder Neville Lobb believed to hold the remainder.
“It’s about getting back to Rangatira’s roots,” said Veal.
The tourism industry was in good health and Rangatira was not the only investor looking at the sector believing there were good returns to be made, he added.
“New Zealand is a relatively small market and Rangatira has been well-served by the assets we have but with the increase in visitors and people flying a long way to come here, we have to build and run more and better facilities. We cannot rest on our laurels.”
Rangatira reported operating earnings for the year to March 2017 of $11.7m, up slightly from the previous period’s $11.5m. It said a wet summer had affected visitor numbers at Rainbow’s End, which had contributed to the flat earnings.
Investment in new all-weather, covered amusements such as AA Driver’s Town, which opened at Rainbow’s End over the summer, was part of a strategy to mitigate the effects of poor weather.
Rainbow’s End also suffered a “material decline in visitors” following last year’s Dreamworld tragedy in Australia. Four people were killed at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast when a ride malfunctioned in October last year.
However, Rangatira’s Polynesian Spa recorded “good growth with over 300,000 visitors” for the year to March, said the company in its annual report.
The investment firm’s decision to join the venture in 1972 “was a good decision that continues to pay us back today”, said Veal in the annual report. “Our initial modest investment has been returned to us many times over.”
The company assessed its group net asset value to be $230.1m, up from $220.1m on the previous year.
In a statement, Rangatira board chair David Pilkington said: “The Board has accepted Phil’s resignation with our thanks for his contribution to positioning Rangatira Investments for the future.”
He said key milestones Rangatira had achieved under Veal’s tenure included acquiring Bio-Strategy and VWR’s Australian & New Zealand businesses, increasing Rangatira’s stake in pork and ham maker Hellers, managing the sale of Tuatara Brewing, and growing operating earnings across the portfolio.
Pilkington said the search for a new chief executive had begun and the board expected to be in a position to announce an appointment by the end of the year.
Rangatira Investments’ majority shareholder is the J.R. McKenzie Trust, which owns 51%, with other community and charitable organisations holding another 15% and private investors making up the balance.