New Zealand wineries owner gave nearly $400,000 to Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump

New Zealanders may be surprised to know that the backer of many of their favourite wine brands is a Trump supporter, commentators say.

Bill Foley is an American billionaire whose Foley Family Wines Holdings has the majority stake in Foley Wines, which owns wine brands including Mt Difficulty, Te Kairanga, Vavasour, Roaring Meg, Dashwood, Russian Jack and Boatshed Bay as well as Lighthouse Gin.

A report by the San Francisco Chronicle said Foley had donated US$255,600 (NZ$393,939) to the United States President Donald Trump between 2016 and 2020.

It was the second-largest donation by a California vintner or winery executive to the Trump campaign, the paper said.

The biggest was from Tom Barrack at Happy Canyon Vineyard, worth US$360,600.

Foley Wines has been approached for comment.

David Cormack, who runs PR firm Draper Cormack, said the donations could put New Zealanders off the products.

Mt Difficulty Inspiration Cuvée Pinot Noir 2013
Mt Difficulty Inspiration Cuvée Pinot Noir 2013

“Many New Zealanders would be deeply disappointed if they learned that some of their favourite so-called Kiwi brands were owned by a Trump-supporting American.”

But Bodo Lang, head of marketing at the University of Auckland, said he thought it unlikely to make a difference.

“There are two reasons for this. Firstly, most wine drinkers are unlikely to be aware of Foley’s political ideology and secondly, even if they are, New Zealand is a relatively apolitical country, meaning that our involvement with politics is relatively low. However, this could change depending on future actions of Trump and how vocal Foley is in his support of Trump.”

Billionaire wine magnate Bill Foley is investing heavily in his South Wairarapa assets.
Billionaire wine magnate Bill Foley is investing heavily in his South Wairarapa assets.

Another marketing commentator, Ben Goodale, said the donations would be a corporate decision made in the United States, rather than anything to do with local winemakers and specific brands.

“It would be a shame to vilify great Kiwi wines because the parent company donate to the worst US president in history.”

In 2010, Foley and two other parties bought the South Wairarapa luxury lodge Wharekauhau. At the time, the property was estimated to be worth $24 million.

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