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NZ fund manager buys embattled Mahana winery from receiver

Thursday 31st January 2019

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Wellington-based fund manager Booster has bought a big stake in Mahana Estates, a winery which went into receivership last year after a Wild West-style shareholder dispute.

Booster, which has around $3 billion under management, has purchased most of the assets in the Nelson winery and restaurant previously known as Woollaston Estates.

Mahana was placed in receivership last September when a previous sale fell through and a stoush between shareholders spiraled into litigation. Media reports at the time talked about angry scenes between Mahana director Glenn Schaeffer and two Las Vegas businessmen and casino owners, James Murren and Daniel Lee. This turned into an ongoing court battle.

Booster's winery purchase is part of its strategy to supplement listed shares with direct investment in local companies. It has created the Booster Wine Group, which includes investments made last year in Awatere River, Waimea Estates, Bannock Brae and Sileni Estates. These form part of Booster's standalone Tahi Fund investment portfolio.

As part of the Mahana Estates’ deal, Booster will buy the company's 21-hectare vineyard, four-level winery and bottling plant, cellar door tasting room, restaurant and events venue. 

The sale price was not disclosed but at the date of the receivers' appointment, creditors were owed around $19.8 million and it had direct and guaranteed indebtedness to Rabobank for $3.2 million. 

Booster's managing director Allan Yeo said adding Mahana to the wine group brings total production to the equivalent of 1 million cases per year for this coming vintage. 

Tahi also has invested in Sunchaser Avocados on Motiti Island in the Bay of Plenty. 

Booster KiwiSaver Scheme funds have exposure to Tahi, which had around $7 million in Kiwisaver funds as of March 31. 

The company also announced the creation of a new private land and property fund aimed at generating an 8 percent return before tax and after all fees over rolling seven-year periods.  The fund's direct investments in New Zealand agricultural and horticultural properties could be supplemented with industrial, commercial and retail properties in the future, both in New Zealand and overseas, it said. 

Booster doesn't own all of Mahana Estate. Nelson-based Seifried Estate, run by members of the Seifried family, has bought Mahana’s nine-hectare sauvignon blanc vineyard in the nearby region of Hope some six kilometres south of Nelson. And an upmarket lodge within the Mahana estate is still up for sale.

(BusinessDesk)

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