Graeme Richard Hart (born 1955) is a New Zealand businessman and the richest person in New Zealand. He prefers to stay out of the general media and makes few public appearances.
Much like other leveraged buyout (LBO) private equity investors, Hart has a preference for buying underperforming and undervalued companies with steady cash flows which can be turned around through strong cash management, cost-cutting and restructuring with other businesses. Since his 2006 purchase of Carter Holt Harvey he has focused his acquisitions on the paper packaging sector. His largest acquisition to-date was for Alcoa's Packaging & Consumer group in 2008 for US$2.7bn, later renamed Reynolds Packaging Group. He does not directly manage his businesses, and is focused mostly on the financing related to re-capitalization of the companies.
Unlike other LBO investors however, Hart is not a believer of sharing the returns of the company, and does not allow any member of the board to get any share in the equity of the businesses. In this manner, he ensures that the risk and the substantial rewards of an LBO investment remain solely with him.
Forbes stated that Hart was the 178th richest person in the world as of March 2016.
Rank Group Ltd is Graeme Hart's private investment company. It is the 100% owner of Reynolds Consumer Products, Burns Philp and Carter Holt Harvey. Rank had assets of approximately NZ$3bn in cash after selling the assets of Burns Philp and floating Goodman Fielder in 2004.
In December 2006 he agreed to purchase International Paper's drinks packaging business Evergreen Packaging for NZ$725 million. In May 2007 he bought Swiss packaging company SIG for NZ$3.2bn. The SIG division Combibloc is the second largest food and drink carton packaging company in the world after Swedish giant Tetra Laval. In August 2007 Hart completed his US$450M purchase of US paper packaging company Blue Ridge Paper Products of North Carolina which he intends to merge with Evergreen Packaging of Arkansas. These acquisitions make Rank Group the world's second biggest player in the paper products business.
Hart's "company vehicle" is a Bombardier Global Express 5000, registered N18WZ.
Burns Philp and Company Limited was an Australian and New Zealand food manufacturing company dual listed on the ASX and NZX. Hart has been the chairman since September 2004 and a member of the board of directors since September 1997. In 2003 Burns Philp performed a A$2.4bn hostile takeover of the much larger food group Goodman Fielder before relisting it through an IPO.
Following the sale of its yeast and spices business to UK firm Associated British Foods, Uncle Toby's to Nestle for NZ$1.1bn and Bluebird Foods to PepsiCo for NZ$245M the company became largely a cashed up shell.
In December 2006, Hart completed a A$1.6bn takeover of the 42 per cent of Burns Philp he did not already own. After the successful takeover Burns Philp was delisted from the ASX and NZX. The deal gave him total control of A$2.9bn of Burns Philp cash, net of debt, which he could then use to further build on his Carter Holt Harvey empire.
Hart sold Burn Philp's 20% stake in Goodman Fielder for NZ$675.8M in October 2007.
Carter Holt Harvey
In 2006 Hart paid NZ$3.3bn for Carter Holt Harvey (CHH), a New Zealand timber and paper business. Soon after completing the purchase he began restructuring the struggling company starting with the sale of CHH's forests to US-based Hancock Timber Group for up to NZ$2bn. Hart has also sold CHH's head office property, various sawmills and packaging plants for over NZ$300M.
In 2007 he announced the sale of CHH's building supplies business which some estimate could fetch NZ$2.3bn, but was unsuccessful in the selling of it.
Hart has been seeking a purchaser for the packaging side of CHH since October 2010.
In April 2014, CHH announced the sale of its Pulp, Paper & Packaging business to Japanese consortium for NZ$1.037bn. Deal is expected to close in the 2nd half of 2014.
Reynolds Packaging Group
In 2008 Hart paid US$2.7bn for Alcoa (AA) Packaging & Consumer group. He spun off the company and renamed it Reynolds Packaging Group, which is now headquartered in Lake Forest, Illinois, USA. While this business is within the packaging industry, it is not paper packaging related, being mostly in the aluminium foil and plastic closure business. Since the purchase from Alcoa, Hart has cut more than 20% of the workforce within Reynolds, mostly through plant shutdowns, including the flagship Reynolds Wrap Foil Plant in Richmond, Virginia and restructuring efforts. This has resulted in significant savings and profit margin jump for the company, allowing him to issue more debt on behalf of the company in October 2009 and get a high return on his initial investment.
In November 2009 and May 2010, Hart, through additional debt financing has combined the packaging groups he owns into Reynolds Group Holdings Limited. RGHL is the combination of four operating segments: SIG (a beverage packaging manufacturer headquartered in Zurich), Closure Systems International (a plastic bottle cap manufacturer headquartered in Indianapolis), Evergreen Packaging (a beverage packaging manufacturer headquartered in Memphis), and Reynolds Consumer Products(an aluminium foil and other packaging materials manufacturer) located in Lake Forest, Illinois. While the operations are spread around the world, the RGHL corporate headquarters are located in the same office building as Reynolds Consumer Products in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Hart worked as a tow-truck driver and as a panel beater after leaving school at 16.
In 1987, Hart completed an MBA from the University of Otago. His research thesis outlines the strategy for Rank, then a small hire company, to evolve into a major corporation. This strategy relies on using the cash flow of well-performing companies to fund debt, which as it gets paid off, increases the equity value of the initial investors, a.k.a. leveraged buyouts.
Hart gained a big break when he purchased the Government Printing Office for less than its capital value in 1990. The purchase was 1.4x earnings and Hart was provided generous payment terms. Then New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange initially refused to sign off the transaction. The following year he bought Whitcoulls Group which at that time included a retail chain of bookstores as well as office and stationery concerns. He has since sold off these interests.
Graeme Hart has residences in Auckland and on Waiheke Island in New Zealand. He attended Mount Roskill Grammar School. Hart says he lacks interest in making money for its own sake. He describes his personal wealth as a "by-product" of what he does.
While he prefers to keep a low profile in the general media he was notable for the launch of his 58 m luxury motor yacht Ulysses at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour in January 2006. The yacht is valued at nearly $100M and took five years to complete due to being gutted by a fire during refit by a New Orleans shipyard. In 2012 it was put up for sale for $49-million. (these details are out of date) Hart has a new yacht under building at Kleven Verft in the community of Ulstein in Norway. The yard specialises in off-shore vessels and the 107-meter long yacht is constructed to sail under rough conditions, equipped with helicopter deck, hangar and accommodation for 60 persons.
Hart's latest 107-metre "expedition yacht," named Ulysses, was completed and eventually launched on 3 September 2014, in Ulsteinvik, north of Oslo, at the Kleven Verft shipyard.