AIMES awards submissions closing on 19 January 2024


2021 North Harbour Business Hall of Fame Inductee

Takapuna resident Craig Heatley went from humble beginnings to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in New Zealand.

He was born in Lower Hutt and educated at Heretaunga College and Victoria University in Wellington.

Craig was a schoolboy when he saw his first business opportunity. He bought a section with $200 saved from his paper round and developed a subdivision.

A few years later – at age 22 – after noticing the popularity of a mini-golf course while at the beach, he and a friend created a mini-golf course in Taupo (pouring the concrete themselves) and then formed a business partnership to open the successful Tamaki Drive mini-golf course.

Seeing an opportunity for an amusement park led him to develop Rainbow’s End where then Prime Minister David Lange almost fell out of the log flume ride on opening day!

The business grew exponentially and employed over 7000 people when it was acquired by Brierley Investments just eight years after Craig had founded it.

By 1986, Craig had become the youngest person on the National Business Review's Rich List.

It was Sky Television that was his boldest and most precarious undertaking. The fledgling company teetered in the early 90s as rugby suffered its own crisis, torn between its amateur heritage and the forces of professionalism.

Craig took Sky Television public in 1997 – at the time it had a staff of over 1000 people – and sold it to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp several years later.

He has been described as New Zealand’s most prominent serial entrepreneur, having established two multi-billion-dollar businesses from scratch.

In 2012, Craig Heatley was named Ernst and Young’s ‘New Zealand Entrepreneur of the Year’.  He was inducted into the ‘World Entrepreneur Hall of Fame’ in mid-2013.

The same year in the Queen's Birthday Honours, he received the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for services to business.

Craig has long been a competitive amateur golfer.  He won the 2003 AT & T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach with leading Kiwi professional Phil Tataurangi and the next year won the European Alfred Dunhill Links Championship Pro-Am with American professional golfer Fred Couples.

Craig is a member of many prestigious golf clubs.  In New Zealand they include life memberships of both Royal Wellington and Royal Auckland golf clubs.  Internationally, Craig is a member of the R&A at St Andrews, Cypress Point Golf Club in California and Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters where Craig serves on the Executive Committee and has been Chairman of the Masters Media Committee since 2005.

Craig is a committed conservationist.  He served on the New Zealand Antarctic Research Foundation and has been instrumental in a number of conservation initiatives, particularly in and around the Bay of Islands.  He has supported a range of non-profit organisations both here and internationally.  They include the Auckland City Mission and the Gifted Kids programme.  Craig was a co-founder of Books in Homes and the Fulbright Platinum Triangle Scholarships.  He was also instrumental in bringing “The First Tee” to New Zealand, a project that was aimed at teaching life skills to children, particularly those in low socio-economic areas.

But it is Craig’s four children Ben, Sophie, Nick, Josh, and his new grandson Theo, who remain the centre of his world.  He is on record as saying that he would willingly give away every material asset if it meant spending just 10 more minutes with his family.

He’s a committed North Shore resident and has recently completed the build of a new home in Takapuna. 

Craig believes that if you are starting a business, be prepared to work harder than you ever have in your life.

Luck, he says, often plays a bigger role in success than people give it credit for, but there is no substitute for passion, energy and commitment.

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