From car­a­van to multi-mil­lion­aire

Central Otago Mirror - - BACKYARD BANTER -

Al­most ex­actly half­way be­tween Auck­land and Hamil­ton, Hamp­ton Downs Motorsport Park sits atop Waikato swamp­land, carved out of steel, con­crete and asphalt. When it’s fin­ished, it’ll host motorsport races from all over the world.

At least, that’s the dream of park owner Tony Quinn, who bought the track last year. He also built High­lands Motorsport Park in Cromwell, which opened in 2013, cre­at­ing a world-class track and tourist des­ti­na­tion. It’s there Quinn keeps one of Michael Schu­macher’s For­mula One cars and a new $4.2 mil­lion As­ton Martin Vul­can su­per­car, the only one in the south­ern hemi­sphere.

With motorsport be­ing loud, ex­u­ber­ant and he­do­nis­tic, you’d ex­pect the owner of a race track to be the same. But Quinn speaks qui­etly and has a calm de­meanour. Dressed in a red Kathmandu jacket, blue jeans and sneak­ers, there are no bells and whis­tles at­tached to this self-made mil­lion­aire.

Born in Aberdeen, Scot­land, Quinn grew up in a wooden car­a­van built by his dad Jimmy. From the age of five he started help­ing his dad with his pet food busi­ness, weigh­ing and bag­ging minced meat. As he grew older, he grad­u­ated to skin­ning calves, chop­ping up dead an­i­mals and turn­ing an­i­mal blood, guts, fat and bone into use­able ma­te­rial - a process called rendering.

His first busi­ness was in rendering and, as he put it in his book, he was ‘‘up to my arms in blood and guts and shit ev­ery day’’. He went on to run a suc­cess­ful sign­writ­ing busi­ness be­fore mov­ing with his wife Christina and two young kids to Perth, Aus­tralia. There, he tried and failed at running two busi­nesses: one in rust-proof­ing and another in video ar­cade game ma­chines.

The Quinn fam­ily moved to New Zealand af­ter­wards and set­tled in Dar­gav­ille. There, Quinn suc­ceeded in build­ing his own pet food busi­ness and re­turned to Aus­tralia some years later to set up VIP Pet­food, the com­pany that would make him his fortune. He ran the busi­ness for more than two decades be­fore sell­ing it last year for A$410m (NZ$435m).

‘‘The most valu­able thing you can leave your fam­ily is your story,’’ he says.

‘‘I say to peo­ple, you leave them a mil­lion dol­lars they’ll fight over it. You leave them a diary of your life, they will find that so in­ter­est­ing, gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion.’’

De­spite the ups and downs of the jour­ney of be­com­ing one of Aus­tralia’s rich­est peo­ple, Quinn says his story is not any bet­ter or worse than any­one else’s.

‘‘Any­body that’s done this jour­ney, it’s dif­fer­ent dates, dif­fer­ent colour, dif­fer­ent po­si­tion, dif­fer­ent location.

‘‘The same story.’’

The Mir­ror has a copy of Tony Quinn’s book to give away. To go in the draw to win, email us your con­tact de­tails on mir­ with Zero to 60 in the sub­ject line.


Self-made mil­lion­aire Tony Quinn is re­leas­ing his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Zero to 60. In­set: Tony Quinn made his fortune out of pet food.

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