Millbrook founder: We’ll never sell’

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The founder of Arrowtown’s luxury Millbrook Resort, which celebrates 20 years tomorrow, is adamant his family will never sell. 

Sprightly 74-year Japanese owner Eiichi Ishii says Millbrook – which he calls “paradise” – is more than an asset or investment property. 

“When you talk about my family, you cannot talk without talking about Millbrook. 

“My family loves Millbrook, my son [managing director Gota] loves it, my daughter loves it and then I’m sure my grandchildren will love it. 

“It is not within our thinking one day we will sell. I mean it has been only 20 years, we are planning to go at least 100 years,” he says. 

Eiichi Ishii, who owns Japan’s largest art supplies company, credits his late mother Fusako – who sent her only child to America’s prestigious Harvard University – and wife Hiroko for encouraging his initial investment. 

Ishii says his company directors all opposed it. 

“But my mother said, ‘Well, this boy would like to do that, so will you support by saying ‘yes’ in the board meeting?’ 

“My wife said the same thing – ‘You better do it because otherwise you will be regretting for the rest of your life every day’.” 

Ishii says his mother – remembered at Millbrook by a rabbit statue marking her birth year – said: ‘You’ve done many many wrong things in your life, but the only thing you did very well was investment into Millbrook.’ 

Ishii says Millbrook is debt-free and not looking for outside investors beyond selling homes and sections. 

“Depending on the year we make money, we may not make money, but basically in terms of financial situation I think Millbrook is very very safe.” 

Property and development manager Ben O’Malley notes that sections now sell for close to what Ishii bought historic former Mill Farm for – about $1.8 million. 

When the development fills up in 10 to 15 years’ time – “we’re currently at just over 200 properties and we’ll be at 350” – real estate will still make money through re-sales, O’Malley says. 

The membership base will also rise from 360 to 600, he adds. 

Ishii recalls once thinking about leasing the hotel operation “because we were 100 per cent amateur in running a hotel”. 

However he was put off after being warned that some hotel chain managers are very good and some aren’t. 

Ishii believes the overall quality of Millbrook’s staff has risen. 

Speaking on Monday, he told Mountain Scene: “This morning I went into the swimming pool and I saw one of the staff cleaning the locker room surface. 

“I said, ‘Well, thank you very much’. 

“He said, ‘Yeah, I like guests to feel happy about clean locker room’, and that makes me happy too.” 

Ishii admits his golf is lousy despite treatment to his lower back from doctors, physios and even an acupuncturist in China. 

However during his three months’ residence at Millbrook each year he swims every day. 

That came with a bonus this week: “I saw about 10 beautiful ladies in swimming this morning.”