Sir Roger Bhatnagar collection opening Auckland Cricket
It’s a great privilege to be here this evening to say a few words to mark this special occasion.
Many of us have known Sir Roger Bhatnagar for a very long time.
Many of us are aware of his long and highly successful business career.
And many of us aware of the role he has performed in supporting the Auckland sporting community.
Add it all together you might say he’s been a stand-out immigrant for New Zealand!
Sir Roger arrived in New Zealand in April 1980 from British Columbia in Canada with his New Zealand born wife, Dianne, and two young children, Aaron and Anita.
In July 1980, he started his first electronics retail store, called Sound Plus, at number 8 Commerce Street in Auckland. His 2nd I.C. for most of the Sound Plus years was Ross Kirkland, present here tonight.
Sir Roger had an aggressive discounting strategy compared to some of the incumbent retailers.
His promotions included “midnight madness” and “pyjama party” sales where people would queue up from his headquarters at 283 Queen Street to the Civic Theatre in order to get substantial discounts on VCR machines and Microwave Ovens, whilst standing in their pyjamas.
Between 1980 and 1991, Roger grew Sound Plus to over 8 stores across Auckland and Hamilton.
Although his retail success is of note, many people will also remember Sir Roger fondly for his contribution to the Auckland and New Zealand sports community, with his many generous donations to sporting causes.
These were the days of amateur sports, or at least semi-professionalism.
Many players genuinely struggled with living costs.
And Sir Roger gave jobs to a number of leading sportsman as brand ambassadors for his company.
This was the making of many a sporting career. It didn’t look bad for business either.
Cricket employees of his included Lance Cairns, Dipak Patel, Willie Watson, and rugby players included Sean Fitzpatrick, Steve McDowell and other prominent Auckland players.
Sir Roger was involved with a number of amusing stories in NZ’s cricket history, including when Sir Richard Hadlee took his is 400th test wicket, and Roger crowned him in a turban and presented him with 400 roses at Lancaster Park.
By 1991, Roger had engineered the leveraged buyout of Noel Leeming from the receivers of the Smiths City Group.
His old friend Greg Lancaster became the number two of the now reinvigorated Noel Leeming companies as they opened new stores under fresh direction.
Noel Leeming was floated on the NZX stock exchange in 1993, and merged with the Bond and Bond Group of businesses in 1996 to become Pacific Retail Group.
Present here tonight are also two other major players of the Auckland electronics retail scene in the 1990s, Eric Faesenklot of Bond and Bond, now owner of the Golf Warehouse, and Mohammed Khan formerly CEO of Hill and Stewart and a future property business partner of Sir Rogers.
In 1998, Sir Roger was knighted by the NZ Government for services to business and charity.
In addition to his sports contributions, Sir Roger also heavily contributed to cancer and diabetes charities.
Sir Roger was also famous for his passionate ownership of sports cars, including New Zealand’s first ever McLaren F1. I understand Mike Clark, then General Manager of Coutts Mercedes Benz is here tonight, who also helped broker the deal between McLaren Cars and Roger in 1994.
Sir Roger exited his investment from Noel Leeming in 1999, and with his success, became a more passive investor, focusing mostly on commercial property, and has largely been retired from business since 2007.
His family now continue his legacy of investment, with sizeable venture capital investments in New Zealand companies like Diligent Boardbooks, Pacific Edge Biotechnology and most recently, Pushpay Holdings.
All these achievements – business, sporting, and charitable means Sir Roger leaves a long lasting legacy. Tonight’s event and his contribution to Auckland cricket is another chapter in that legacy.
There is one final duty to perform.
It is a pleasure to represent Sir Roger, and his family, and announce and hand-over a very special gift.
A further cricket bat is being gifted to Auckland Cricket to put on display.
This bat is co-signed by two legends of cricket, the much loved Auckland and New Zealand cricketing hero Martin Crowe, and the Australian legend Sir Donald Bradman.
This is a limited edition bat to commemorate both batsmen scoring 299 runs in one innings.
This bat is being handed to you Mr Laxon, for your care, and I now declare the Sir Roger Bhatnagar collection at the Bert Sutcliffe Lounge officially open.