Billionaire’s buy-up

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A Japanese billionaire art collector who’s restored two historic buildings in central Queenstown has bought a landmark property close by.

Auckland-based Soi-chiro Fukutake has paid an undisclosed sum to buy Doug and the late Betty Brown’s long-time four-level home on the corner of Ballarat and Henry Streets.

The purchase, brokered by New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty, includes a small neighbouring home on the Henry/Malaghan Sts corner.

On the opposite corner is Fukutake’s first local purchase – an 1800s cottage that was restored, and lifted, by local heritage builder David ‘Bod’ Boden.

In 2013, Fukutake also bought the grand Victorian mansion, Hulbert House, on the corner of Ballarat, Hallenstein and Malaghan Sts.

He again employed Boden to undertake a huge restoration project which was overseen by noted Auckland interior designer Neil McLachlan.

Hulbert House re-opened as a six-suite boutique lodge two years ago.

Ranked by Forbes as one of Japan’s richest people, Fukutake is best known for turning Japan’s former industrial island of Naoshima, in the Seto Inland Sea, into a major world art collection.

In 2016 he lent a Claude Monet painting to the Auckland Art Gallery.

Betty and Doug Brown’s son Nigel says he doesn’t know whether the new owner will keep or bowl their former family home, which dates back to the 1950s.

“We’re just happy that a property owner in Queenstown’s bought it,” Nigel says.

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