Eric Watson (businessman)

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Eric Watson (born 1959) is a New Zealand businessman, now resident in London. In 2011, the National Business Review listed Watson as the 21st richest New Zealander.[1]


He attended Xavier College in Christchurch where he enjoyed his schooling. It is believed he will be fully involved in school developments in 2016. 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] The firm's primary focus is development of its international portfolio, which includes interests in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.[9]

Through the firm, he 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[10] who helped launch the brand into the UK and Europe,[11] and Stella McCartney.[12]

Through the firm, he bought a 75% stake in the New Zealand Warriors in 2000,[13] 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. However, in 2015, he increased his share to 100% becoming the sole-owner of the 'Vodafone Warriors' Franchise.[14]

The firm has an international property portfolio, including commercial assets and residential development, predominantly in New Zealand, the US and UK.[15]

The Watson Foundation is a charitable trust established by Cullen Investments to enrich the lives of underprivileged children and young people and assist with their needs, including care, support, protection, health and education. The foundation sponsored till about 2011 charities such as The First Tee of New Zealand.[16]


He was previously married to Nicola Watson, a model now known as Nicola Robinson.[17] He has three young sons by his Swedish partner, model Lisa Henrekson.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Rich List at a Glance (Wealth order)". The National Business Review. 27 July 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2011.[permanent dead link]
  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" (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 Macpherson intimates". Archived from the original on 24 December 2014.
  11. ^ "Elle fronts Bendon's UK launch – The Press". Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Stella McCartney to release first lingerie collection in February 2008". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  13. ^ "Warrior chief living life to the Maximus". 28 September 2003. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
  14. ^ "Eric Waston now Warriors sole owner". New Zealand Herald. 28 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  15. ^ "Luxury estate ideal corporate retreat or idyllic personal getawayNews". New Zealand Herald. 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  16. ^ "The First Tee of New Zealand View Library Document: Sponsors". The First Tee. Retrieved 7 March 2011.[dead link]
  17. ^ "'Newsboy' Wells & Watson most sexy". NZ Entertainment news. Retrieved 1 August 2008.
  18. ^ "Eric Watson moves on from cardies to cows as Sardinia beckons". NZ Herald. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 24 August 2011.

External links[edit]