Giant NZ supermarket sold: Māori ex-shelf stacker buys multi-million dollar store

One of this country’s highest revenue-earning supermarket has been sold to a former shelf stacker and one of Aotearoa’s most successful Māori businessmen.

A giant of the co-operative Foodstuffs North Island’s portfolio has changed hands in a deal speculated on earlier this year at a supermarket which turns over tens of millions of dollars annually.

Supermarket boss Jason Witehira yesterday confirmed Pak’nSave Albany on Auckland’s North Shore was now under his control.

The Herald reported just after New Year he was the buyer, saying the deal was due to settle around August.

The popular Witehira previously owned the upmarket New World Victoria Park in central Auckland but Foodstuffs North Island bars co-operative members from owning any more than one supermarket, so he was forced to sell when he bought the much bigger Albany store.

“I have taken over Albany and am very busy focusing on what’s required here,” Witehira told the Herald yesterday.

He referred any further questions to Foodstuffs North Island’s corporate affairs team.

Witehira had previously refused to discuss the transaction when asked about it in January.

Pak’nSave Albany has long been owned by interests associated with Paul and Liz Blackwell.

The Blackwells have for many years owned the professional basketball team the New Zealand Breakers. Three years ago, they announced a newly formed company, Breakers Basketball, would take control.

Paul Blackwell was reported last year to be in an investment group buying Burger King from its receivers. Tahua Partners bought Starbucks New Zealand from Restaurant Brands in 2018 and was said to have signed a binding agreement to buy the burger chain.

Four upper North Island supermarkets worth tens of millions of dollars are being sold in a musical chairs-style of transactions triggered by Albany’s transaction.

Foodstuffs North Island co-operative stores at Albany, College Hill, Birkenhead and Te Kuiti were said to be all changing hands because owner/operators can control only one outlet at any one time.

All the deals were reported earlier this year to be triggered by Pak’nSave Albany’s sale sparking ownership changes to New World Victoria Park and possibly New Worlds at Birkenhead and Te Kuiti.

In a video, Witehira tells of leaving school at 16 and how he had “moved through the supermarket industry”, taking advantage of the successful Foodstuffs North Island HR programme which has seen many others buy supermarkets.

At the age of 29, he bought his first store which was Taumarunui New World, then Botany New World then Victoria Park.

“I actually fell into the food industry. I left school at 16 and didn’t know what I was going to do. There was an advertisement in the local supermarket in Rotorua where I grew up looking for a produce worker.

“I got the job and really liked it. I liked dealing with people, the customers and workmates and at the end of the school holidays I asked mum and dad if I could leave school,” he said.

It was a privilege to run flagship supermarkets for Foodstuffs, he said.

“I have 240 to 250 staff, most full-time, it’s a very competitive environment,” Witehira said in a video when talking about his ownership of New World Victoria Park.

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