Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m
AN expansive mansion estate marred by controversy surrounding its previous tenant will soon be filled with fun, laughter - and water fights.
The new owners of the Coatesville mansion, once home to internet mogul Kim Dotcom, are the founders of Zuru, the globally successful toy company behind Bunch-o-Balloons and Robofish.
Cambridge siblings Anna, Mat and Nick Mowbray confirmed to the Weekend Herald this week they are the new owners.
The siblings initially wanted to keep their purchase confidential but soon realised the interest in the sale was too high. They also felt "there was a responsibility" to inform the public of their intention with the land.
Mat, Anna and Nick Mowbray are all in their early 30s.
The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June.
In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Herald Anna Mowbray said the trio were excited about their new home but the purchase of such an extravagant property went against their usual no-frills approach.
"It's certainly very grand and this went a little against our ethos but we decided to take the plunge anyway," she said.
"We knew that we would never regret owning a slice of prime real estate in New Zealand and this really is a very special place with its calming aura and impeccable build plus finishings."
The siblings live in Hong Kong where their business is based but the Coatesville mansion will be home base when they return for months at a time.
"I'm already planning a big family Christmas, and a few other family related events have been lined up for the property so it'll be very well loved and utilised," Mowbray said.
The house was built for Chrisco multi-millionaire Richard Bradley in 2006 and was later leased to Dotcom.
It was up for tender with agency Barfoot and Thompson when it caught the attention of the Mowbrays, who flew home to view it.
Quirky features like the hedged maze and larger-than-life giraffe sculpture fitted with the trio's love of fun.
"There may have been one of us who also fell in love with the giraffe, Gizzy," Mowbray said.
The Mowbrays understood other interested parties wanted to subdivide the 22.6ha property but the siblings didn't want that to happen.
"It is a property we want to share and keep in the family for generations," Mowbray said.
"It is a slice of New Zealand we are keen to keep in one piece."
The mansion would also serve as a New Zealand retreat for key staff members at Zuru who would be welcomed to the property "on an annual basis to revitalise".
Mowbray acknowledged the "chequered past" of the property, which was the scene of armed raids by police when it was home to Dotcom.
But she said the family were keen to bring fun and positivity to the property - the labels Chrisco Mansion and Dotcom Mansion were in the past and the property would now be known as Mahoenui Valley.
Mowbray said her two children, both under 5, hadn't yet seen the property but she hoped it would become the "children's paradise" they planned.
The whole family felt very fortunate they were able to purchase such a special property and it was only possible because of the success of Zuru.
Owning property was the furthest thing from the siblings' minds when they were sleeping on the factory floor to save money when Zuru was in its infancy.
The company's first toy was a miniature hot-air balloon eldest brother Mat invented and which won the New Zealand Science Fair in 1993.
The sibling team commercialised the product, enlisting friends and family to manufacture the balloons from plastic bags, Coca-Cola cans and hand-bent wire in the family garage.
The company now has more than 8000 people working for Zuru and making Zuru products worldwide. It distributes toys to 121 countries.
Zuru's biggest successes include:
Bunch-o-Balloons - It fills 100 water balloons in one minute and shipped 30 million units in 2016. It has won several industry awards including the Australian Toy Association Toy of the Year (2015).
RoboFish - 35million robotic fish have been sold since 2013 and the toy was judged Collectible Toy of the Year in 2013
XShot - Outsells Nerf and with more than 27 million blasters shipped worldwide in 2016.
Tsum Tsum - More than 7 million Tsum Tsum Squishies have been sold throughout the UK and their popularity is growing in Australia and New Zealand.
Zuru has just been named Walmart USA's Vendor of the quarter which Mowbray said was a huge honour.
Parents Linda and Harry Mowbray had a lot to do with their success, Mowbray said, giving them freedom and encouragement growing up.
"They taught us the value of money and made us work hard for everything but also set us up with values and morals."
Friends and family were excited and incredibly proud to hear of their new purchase.
"They know how hard we've worked to build ZURU and I think are incredibly happy to see us succeeding."
"Most have been waiting for us to get back to New Zealand more often and this may just be the activator for that to happen."
- NZ Herald