August 8, 2022
We are sorry to report the passing away of Sir Rajeshwar Sarup Bhatnagar, popularly known as Sir Bhatnagar yesterday (November 7, 2022) at the Summerset Heritage Park in Ellerslie, Auckland after a long period of illness.
He was 80 years old and is survived by his son Aaron, daughter Anita, daughter-in-law Mara, son-in-law Blair, grandchildren Sebastian, Alexander, Christopher, Jack, Brontë and Gia, and his former wife Dee.
A private funeral service will be held for family members and close friends.
Sir Roger suffered a stroke in 2009 and since then has been under care and treatment.
He was one of the finest friends of Indian Newslink and used to take much interest in the progress of the newspaper for almost ten years, from its inception on November 15, 1999, until poor health struck him ten years later.
Sole Indian in Rich List
Indian Newslink published the following Report in its July 15, 2004 issue:
Sir Rajeshwar Roger Bhatnagar, better known as Sir Roger was the only Indian featured in the National Business Review Rich List 2004, released recently.
With $28 million in his coffers, he has been consistently featured in the annual list, although not among the top 20.
The 2004 Rich List contains 187 of New Zealand’s wealthiest, with a combined total minimum net worth of $22.33 billion, including 29 new entrants who brought in more than $1.3 billion.
The NBR lifted the minimum threshold from $10 million to $20 million to make the list interesting and exclusive, Editor-in-Chief Nevil Gibson said.
“Sir Bhatnagar earned his fortuned through discount stereo chain Sound Plus, which became Noel Leeming and through his former ownership of the Burger King franchise in New Zealand, cashed up his interests some years ago,” NBR said.
He leads a relatively low-profile rich man’s existence these days, supporting several charities and sports.
From Canada to New Zealand
Migrating to New Zealand with his New Zealand-born wife and Canada-born (Vancouver) children in 1980, Sir Roger started a successful electronics retail business called Sound Plus.
In 1991, he bought Noel Leeming from its receivers. As Executive Chairman, he worked with his team to grow the company and helped create the Pacific Retail group, from which he exited in 1999 for semi-retirement.
The late Queen Elizabeth II admitted him to the Order of the British Empire with a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1998 for his services to business and the community.
The Noel Leeming buyout
Aaron said, “Dad had a rich and diverse life, as he was able to savour the fruits of his success in retail and elsewhere. He grew up in very modest circumstances in New Delhi and when travelling the world in the late 1960s, he occasionally slept rough as he was short of money. He then settled in Canada, learning the art of electronics retail in British Columbia. When he moved with his family to New Zealand in 1980, he irritated many of his competitors with aggressive discounting and marketing, like his ‘Pyjama Parties’ on Auckland’s Queen Street, living by the retail motto “Stack them high and kiss them goodbye.” He grew Sound Plus from one to nine stores, and then bought Noel Leeming from the Smith’s City receivers in 1991 in a leveraged buyout, and listed Noel Leeming successfully on the NZX in 1993.”
According to Aaron, Sir Order was incredibly generous to family, friends and causes, but with a mercurial personality that was as tough as it was charming.
“He loved the nice things in life, enjoyed his friendships with New Zealand sports players and politicians, and was a charismatic, larger-than-life character. He loved his parties and entertaining, his snapper fishing in the Hauraki Gulf, and had a passion for luxury cars, watches and collectables. Sadly, his poor health from 2009 deprived him of a more meaningful and rewarding role as an active grandfather, to which he was looking forward,” Aaron said.
Comment by Gary Paykel
Gary Paykel, former CEO of Fisher and Paykel and a long-time friend and confidante said, “Sir Roger Bhatnagar became a wonderful and true friend of mine. He was the epitome of an entrepreneurial businessman. I watched with admiration his leveraged buyout of Noel Leeming in 1991 – a gutsy move when the company was in receivership. He had rare intuitive instincts for appliance retailing, and I had no doubt he would be successful with Noel Leeming, which he grew into Pacific Retail Group. I will remember him for his openness, honesty and loyalty.”
Message from Winston Peters
Another long-time, close friend, Rt Hon Winston Peters said, “Sir Roger was a standout immigrant success story for New Zealand. I knew Sir Roger for a long time and deeply respected his business career, his contribution to philanthropic causes such as cancer and diabetes charities, and his support for the sporting community. He was enormous fun to be with, had tremendous insight into the retail economy, and it was a privilege to include him on official business delegations to Asia when I was Deputy Prime Minister in the 1990s,” he said.
Aaron said that the Bhatnagar family is grateful to the staff of the Care Centre at Summerset at Heritage Park, and 7 St Vincent in Remuera for their care and support of Sir Roger over 13 years. They also thank his old friend Colin Wong for his extra caregiving support, as well as family advisors Alex Houghton, Tim Williams and Greg Horton who worked closely with Aaron to ensure Sir Roger’s protection and comfort in his last years.
You can write to Aaron on the family website: www.bhatnagar.co.nz or to the Bhatnagar Family, P O Box 37016, Parnell, Auckland 1151.