Aug 1, 2008

Who Is Sir Roger Bhatnagar?

A couple of readers have asked who the hell this Bhatnagar fellow is. Indeed he has not been much in the headlines of late and finding info on him on Google is not that easy. But we have this on our files from the National Business Review Rich list in 1998 (which makes him 65 not 55, and we don't know if he managed to patch things up with Lady Dianne). The NBR notes the friendship of Winston Peters with Sir Roger (and the fact they travelled together to Malaysia - don't tell Rodney Hide) and rumours - that were denied - that Sir Roger made a donation to help pay some of Winston's legal bills.

Sir Rajeshewar Sarup (Roger) BHATNAGAR, 55
$22 million
Never far from the headlines, Sir Roger Bhatnagar was the surprise recipient of a knighthood for services to business and the community in the Queen's Birthday honours list last month.
This top honour - one of only three knighthoods awarded - came after Bhatnagar and long-time associate Greg Lancaster moved on from retailing.
Indian-born, Bhatnagar made his name by discounting in the stereo business. His Sound Plus chain became Noel Leeming when he and associate Greg Lancaster bought the Leeming business from the Smiths City receiver. Though they still own about 12% of Leeming between them, they have resigned all office and executive responsibility and are currently looking for new ventures.
They attempted to take a control in ailing battery group Power Beat earlier this year but gave up when their proposals became bogged down.
Another of Bhatnagar's proposals, to build lavish apartments beside Auckland Domain, has been put on hold in light of a flat market but he has done well out of retail space he built recently at Manukau City.
He drives a royal blue V12 Mercedes-Benz CLK and owns other exotic cars. There is a 50ft launch, Enigma, and a fast catamaran-style launch capable of over 60 knots called FU2, which is often used to commute from Auckland to a property on Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf.
A keen sports follower, he has renewed his interest in acquiring New Zealand's sole NRL rugby league franchise, the DB Bitter Warriors, now officially on the market.
He attended the first Cricket Max Masters event in January, three times having to meet a promise to pay Lance Cairns $500 for each six the former New Zealand top-order batsman hit during his innings.
A fan of colonial painter Charles Goldie, Bhatnagar displayed his two portraits by the artist at an art exhibition held last year at Hamilton's well-heeled Southwell School.
He also finds time to support various charities, notably the Breast Cancer Foundation to which he last year donated $250,000. He also chartered a Boeing 737 to take child diabetes sufferers to Wellington to ask the government to ask for a better deal.
Bhatnagar strongly denied rumours he bailed out New Zealand First leader Winston Peters by paying (or lending) the $120,000 damages and costs awarded against Peters for defaming businessman Selwyn Cushing. But the rumours persist and Bhatnagar is reportedly counted among Peters' ever-decreasing circle of close friends. He recently travelled with Peters to Malaysia.
He lives in an apartment on the fringes of Newmarket, Auckland. He and wife Lady Diane are working on a reconciliation after their recent separation. *