Adrian Burr dies in Auckland, tributes from friends for his ‘massive’ contribution to arts

Philanthropist, arts donor and heavyweight businessman Adrian Burr passed away in Auckland today.

The multimillionaire Herne Bay resident had suffered a long illness, according to those close to him.

Adrian Kenneth Burr was born on June 8, 1943. His partner was the late Peter Tatham.

Burr was a founding benefactor of the ASB Waterfront Theatre on Halsey St and the Arts Foundation gave him a laureate award, saying he and Tatham “are some of the most remarkable and well-known arts philanthropists in Aotearoa”.

Burr was the founding director of Auckland’s School for Performing and Creative Arts and was on the board of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

Those close to him today talked of the many millions he had poured into his wide-ranging philanthropic work and many different arts organisations.

“It was simply outstanding, massive,” said one close friend.

Mark Taylor, a friend and business associate, said today Burr was “much loved and will be dearly missed by the many people in whose lives he has made a difference. Known for his kindness and passion for philanthropy and arts, he lived and breathed the joy of giving, enabling others to grow and share their talents.”

Taylor said Burr was an intensely private person who had quietly supported many and diverse charities, visual and performing arts, theatre, mental health, sports and environmental causes dear to his big heart.

“Adrian made a difference to many people, and small reminders of his big legacy are to be found all over New Zealand on the donor and patron boards of the many causes and projects he supported so joyfully,” Taylor said.

Burr was one of the original business people who founded Viaduct Harbour Holdings, the multibillion-dollar business which owns 35ha of waterfront land around the city’s waterfront.

He first came to prominence in the 1980s with Chase Corporation and, like former Chase boss Colin Reynolds, stayed in the business during the 1990s when he picked up a swag of real estate for a song.

In 2006, he told the Herald he was going to step back from the Viaduct.

After working with allies David Muller, Mark Wyborn, Ross Green and Trevor Farmer on some of the country’s most significant property deals of the past decade, Burr said he then wanted a break.

“In the past few years, I’ve put a lot of effort into the business and the time has come to balance the books and charge up the emotional bank account,” Burr told the Herald in a rare interview.

Last year’s property power list reported how that big Viaduct leasehold land business is now being run byJustin Wyborn, Dean Farmer, Angela Bull, Ross Green, Noel Lane and Emma Gibbs.

Viaduct owns and leases some of New Zealand’s most valuable land beneath apartments, offices, restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

Burr was also involved with a group of businessmen who bought vast forestry in the North Island. Trevor Farmer, Ross Green, Mark Wyborn and Burr of Kiwi Forests Group, part of a consortium paying $725m for the 106,000ha forest estate.

He and Tatham were renowned for their philanthropy towards the arts and racing.

He once owned 1998 Melbourne Cup winner Jezabeel and the Thoroughbred Association thanked Burr and Tatham as generous donors.

At his 60th birthday, Burr asked people to give donations to Auckland City Sculpture Trust instead of a present.

The NBR Rich List previously estimated his wealth at $500m and referred to his helicopter and his boat which sailed the world.

“Burr has been an influential property investor for more than three decades, bursting on to the scene in the early 1980s with Chase, then buying up key Newmarket, CBD waterfront, car parking buildings and later forestry estates,” NBR reported.

He benefited from the property market’s continued surge but had been taking a more philanthropic-style to investment lately.

Burr’s Herne Bay home was valued by Auckland Council in 2017 as being worth $25m.

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