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The NBR List 2024: Mowbray Family Succeed Graeme Hart As New Zealand’s Richest

The family who started a toy company in a Cambridge garage more than 20 years ago are the country’s new wealthiest people, having grown that business into a global behemoth on track to hit $3 billion of revenue this year.

The NBR List 2024, published today, has estimated the Mowbray family behind Zuru Group are worth $20b.

That makes them the country’s wealthiest by far, displacing packaging, property and investment magnate Graeme Hart who has been the country’s wealthiest person for just over 20 years.

Hart is valued at an estimated $12.1b in the 2024 NBR List.

Zuru now spans three divisions– toys, consumer goods and construction – and has more than 5000 staff across more than 30 locations worldwide.

In an interview published last week at NBR, 39-year-old Nick Mowbray said Zuru was on track to hit $3b revenue this year, with a plan to grow to $10b of annual turnover within the next five years.

He also gave us a sense of how highly profitable the business has become. It is debt free and wholly owned by brothers Mat and Nick after sister Anna fully exited the business in 2023.

Based on that interview, other interviews and an analysis against comparable listed company valuations, it was clear NBR has for several years undervalued the Mowbrays (valued at $3.2b in 2023).

“Zuru describes itself as a robotics and automation company with a relentless focus on continuous improvement, which sees it automate at least one new process a week, resulting in some of the most efficient factories in the world,” NBR List editor Hamish McNicol says. “This has resulted in the group being highly profitable and debt free, and Zuru must now surely be considered one of New Zealand's most remarkable business successes.”

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The group is now taking on its most ambitious project yet: automating the construction of housing and property.

About a year ago, Zuru purchased a 25-acre factory in China, which will be its first full production factory for houses. The first are set to be shipped out to four pieces of land in Los Angeles that Zuru has bought, with completion aimed for the end of this year or early next year.

“If Zuru manages to completely disrupt how a building is built, then the scale of what it can achieve is almost endless.”

Great wealth transfer

The theme of the 2024 NBR List is Succession.

Globally, the “great wealth transfer” is estimated to see at least US$90 trillion of assets move from baby boomers to the next generation.

In New Zealand, economic research consultancy BERL says those born before 1966 hold about 60% of New Zealand’s $2.29tr individual net wealth.

It’s further estimated that about $1.11tr will be transferred by those aged over 55 to the next generation over the next 20 years.

The collective wealth of this year’s NBR List has come in at $95.68 billion, which is well up on last year’s $72.59b. The top 10 are all billionaires with a collective net worth north of $50b, and you need a net worth of at least $120 million to get a look in.

The NBR List 2024 analyses who are next in line, and what might they do with this wealth. Some are giving it all away, others are establishing increasingly sophisticated family offices and investment vehicles in the hopes the next generation will continue their legacy.

One of the most interesting examples of intergenerational thinking is seen with the newcomer Fukutake family.

Their Still investment vehicle was founded in 2020 and describes its strategy as acquiring, starting, or supporting 100 New Zealand businesses, not-for-profits, or projects over the next 10 to 20 years.

It has made a string of investments for undisclosed sums in a wide range of assets, including some eclectic acquisitions such as Kings Plant Barn, National Candles, the WOW World of Wearable Art show, and Metro Media Group.

The Still investment vehicle explicitly considers investments on a 100-year horizon.

The Fukutake family join nine other newcomers on this year’s List, alongside the likes of Mainfreight managing director Don Braid, Auckland financier Glenn Hawkins and Tauranga developers Peter Cooney and Matt Lagerberg.

“This historic wealth transfer is likely to have multiple ramifications on jobs, real estate and the economy overall,” McNicol says. “The relaunch of the new-style List in 2021 moved our focus away from lauding wealth for wealth’s sake, in favour of profiling Kiwis who are building the country’s future.”

“The stories this year – of how Listers are thinking 100 years down the line – are strong evidence of this.”

About The NBR List

The NBR List celebrates the Kiwi individuals and families who are building enterprises, growing the country’s fortunes, creating jobs, and giving back. It profiles more than 100 wealth creators in five industry lists – Property, Agribusiness, Investment, Make & Sell, and Tech & Services, plus a ranking of the Top 10 from those categories. It is published annually by The National Business Review at www.nbr.co.nz

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