- Terry Serepisos has made a name for himself as a high-flying property developer in Wellington
- In 2007 he financed the Phoenix football franchise in the Australian A-League
- In 2010, Serepisos was “the boss” of the New Zealand production of The Apprentice
- He was declared bankrupt in September 2011
Bankrupt former real estate tycoon Terry Serepisos is back in business in the capital and has bought out the former jewel of his empire.
Serepisos has confirmed that he bought the Distinction Wellington Century City hotel – the flagship of the high-flying property developer’s portfolio before it was sold in the months before its bankruptcy in September 2011.
He once described the Tory St Hotel as his “proudest moment in business”.
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“I bought the whole hotel and 101 parking lots. It’s a return to Wellington. This is the hotel I built,” Serepisos said.
He called the decision “positive for Wellington”.
The purchase represented a “fresh start” for Serepisos and he said he saw his future in property investments in New Zealand.
“New Zealand is still my home as I grew up here for most of my life and my whole family is here.”
At the height of his wealth, Serepisos was well known for his jet-set lifestyle, his multi-million dollar home in Mt Victoria and was often seen driving a multitude of Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Jaguars.
Serepisos proudly admitted to treating himself to US$600 Italian shoes and receiving a tailored shirt every week. In 2010, he took on the role of Donald Trump in the New Zealand production of reality TV show The Apprentice.
In 2007, he bankrolled the A-League soccer franchise, the Wellington Phoenix, with a check for $1.25 million. By the time he was forced out in 2011, he estimated he had paid $8-10 million into the club.
Shortly after, Serepisos was declared bankrupt with debts of over $200 million.
Ownership records show that Serepisos’ title ownership in Distinction Wellington Century City is at least partly funded by private Australian financier Alceon Group.
Grant Henderson, regional managing director of Bayleys Real Estate Wellington, confirmed that his company had been appointed as the sole agency for the marketing of 89 apartments in the former hotel.
John Fisk, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, was involved in the 2011 receivership of the Serepisos companies. The global financial crisis and a “high risk appetite” were a factor in many high-profile corporate bankruptcies in the era, he said.
“It was a reflection of the market and the environment we were operating in at this stage. Property developers were in a lot of debt and that was common in all areas,” he said.
Fisk said the current market has some similarities to conditions that preceded the global financial crisis with high levels of debt funded by high house prices.
“As house prices have risen, people have paid those prices with a combination of debt and their own resources. When prices fall, it becomes more difficult to service that debt or pay it off. when the properties are actually to be sold at a loss.