NHNZ building sold, staff restructuring

The NHNZ building in Melville St has been sold to a Dunedin company. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
The NHNZ building in Melville St has been sold to a Dunedin company. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Employees at film and documentary-maker NHNZ are being offered new contracts under a change of business ownership and the company’s Dunedin building has been sold.

The sale of the business owned by Canadian company Blue Ant Media is understood to be on the verge of settlement and the Otago Daily Times has been told NHNZ Ltd will close on Friday.

It is understood staff were issued redundancy notices and asked to reapply for their positions.

How many people could lose jobs is not known.

The NHNZ building at 5 Melville St was sold to a Dunedin company this month.

Reality television producer Dame Julie Christie confirmed in December that she was in negotiations to take a stake in the Dunedin company.

"I’m not in a position to say anything yet," Dame Julie said this week.

"I’m sure that is not very far away."

A new company called NHNZ Worldwide Ltd was incorporated on January 29, the New Zealand Companies Register shows.

NHNZ Worldwide Ltd’s directors are Sam Sniderman, of Los Angeles, and Auckland accountant Hunter Dolan, who are also the directors of NHNZ.

NHNZ global communications vice-president Sarah Etherden said the company was not in a position to discuss the matter as negotiations with a potential investor/partner were not final.

"We absolutely understand the high degree of public interest in the future of NHNZ," Ms Etherden said.

NHNZ reported a $7.6million loss for the financial year ended August 31, 2020, compared with an almost $3million profit in 2019, annual financial statements show.

The loss is understood to have been driven largely by a $6.7million loan write-off for children’s channel ZooMoo.

Blue Ant Media has not confirmed how many people work at NHNZ.

The company’s wage subsidy information shows it received support for 31 employees early in 2020.

It went back for a wage subsidy extension for 27 employees.

NHNZ received about $543,000 in wage subsidies from the New Zealand Government and $669,000 from the Singapore Government for Covid-19 credits and rebates.

Revenue from customer contracts was about $20.4million in the 12 months to August 31, down more than $3.1million on the previous year.

On September 1, NHNZ sold Dunedin games company Runaway Play Productions to Australian company RACAT, which belongs to former NHNZ owner David Haslingden.

The company has been in Dunedin since it started in 1977 as a TVNZ Natural History Unit.

Ray White agent Howden Finnie said the building had been sold to a local company.

NHNZ would remain in the building in the immediate future, Mr Finnie said.

"They may be there for longer," he said.

"It depends on what Dame Julie ends up doing."

It was too early to disclose the building sale price. It had been put on the market in July, he said.

A purchase agreement was signed late last year but further negotiations had slowed the final process.

NHNZ had occupied the building since 2009.

The building was constructed in the early 1940s and had been the Mosgiel Woollen Mill hosiery department, Mr Finnie said.

Its last major tenant before NHNZ was the Metropolitan Club, which ran bars and dance floors.

bruce.quirey@odt.co.nz

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