Kim Dotcom has arrived – and he says there’s at least a dozen other tech moguls living under the radar here, too.
The controversial German multi-millionaire web magnate is about a month into his new life on the outskirts of Queenstown, where he’s set up home with his new wife, Liz.
Speaking exclusively to Mountain Scene at his sprawling new pad, which once housed Tom Cruise, he says he’s not the only one.
He knows “about a dozen people from Silicon Valley that have homes in Queenstown that haven’t even been on the radar, not been in the media, and that number is just increasing”.
They see New Zealand, and Queenstown in particular, as a bolt-hole to escape to if the proverbial hits the fan elsewhere.
“For a lot of people that I’m talking to in the tech industry, and the Silicon Valley, it’s kind of like a back-up, you know you have a back-up server when your main server goes down, so they have a back-up for their lives, for their families,” Dotcom says.
The most well-known tech mogul to buy up land in the area is Paypal founder Peter Thiel, whose purchase of a $13.5 million farming block bordering Lake Wanaka attracted plenty of attention. He also reportedly owns Queenstown Hill’s ‘plasma TV’ house.
Dotcom says: “When I first moved to New Zealand I gave an interview to the [NZ] Zealand?’ and I said ‘it’s the safest place in the world to get away from the worst-case scenario’. If something goes wrong, you know that New Zealand can be self-sustained, that it has the resources to survive, and it’s so far away from all the troubles that it’s a place where you can still raise your kids and live a relatively safe and good life, even if the world is in crisis.”
Queenstown is certainly a world away from that, he reckons.
After several years in Auckland, he’s loving life down south.
“Yeah absolutely love it, I was here for the first time like almost 10 years ago and ever since it was in the back of my head, you know I always thought this is the most beautiful place in the world, and I’ve seen a lot of places, and I just think that the beauty of Queenstown is almost unmatched.”
The people here are more “chill” than Aucklanders, he says.
But he’s not resting on his laurels.
Dotcom is already mulling his next business ventures, including real estate investments and a luxury cinema.
“Wherever I go, I’m always active in some way or another in business, first thing I did when I got here was go ‘is there a nice cinema in Queenstown?’ and there is one cinema but you know there’s nothing really that caters to, kind of the upscale customer that would want to have like a big sofa and be able to order food.”
It’s not all smooth sailing for the Dotcoms, with Kim still waiting to hear if he’ll be extradited to the United States over his former business, Megaupload.
Last year the High Court upheld a previous ruling Dotcom was eligible for extradition on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.
He’s challenged the ruling with New Zealand’s Court of Appeal.
The original ruling did find he could not be extradited on charges of copyright infringement, however, as that was not a criminal offence in NZ.
Despite his long-running, and very public, legal woes, Dotcom is still positive, and focused on family.
His five kids with ex-wife Mona Dotcom moved down a few months before him and Liz.
They’re settled into school and loving it, he says.
So what about rumours that he and Liz are expecting their own bundle of joy?
The Dotcoms are, unfortunately, tight-lipped.
“We don’t comment on that,” he says.