From caravan to multi-millionaire
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.