Cashed up to the tune of $19 million following the sale of his
internet business Orcon, entrepreneur Seeby Woodhouse is now studying
opportunities in alternative energy sources.
The $24.3 million
sale of Orcon to state-owned network operator Kordia will be completed
by July 2, with former 80 per cent owner Woodhouse staying on as a
consulting director for the next two years.
"I'm able to take my
money off the table now, relax a little bit, but still have the upside
of the business, the challenge and the things that I enjoy," he said.
Woodhouse has not ruled out future technology investments, the sale
gives the 30-year-old, who started Orcon in 1994 with $100, a chance to
focus on his interest in global warming and business opportunities in
technologies that could combat its effects.
"The thing I'm
concerned about is, basically, if we're already past peak oil
[production] and some of the wells start to dry up and the price goes
to US$120 a barrel, then New Zealand is at serious risk of collapse,"
"We should be working on complete energy independence."
would consider investments in everything from ethanol production, solar
and wave energy generation to "green" housing technologies.
a bit of a departure for the telco operator who was a millionaire by
the age of 25 and sponsored a V8 supercar racing team. Orcon has
dropped sponsorship of the team.
While he has had plenty of
offers for Orcon, about 50 over the last seven years, Woodhouse
rejected them and never sought external funding.
"I didn't want to have the risk of bowing down to someone else and be depressed about it," he said.
a proposal was presented to me, I was reluctant. I said to myself,
'I'll just try and grow the business as fast as I can, if it grows a
bit slower, I don't care'."
But by last year, when the unbundling
bombshell was dropped, Woodhouse had to decide whether to raise a lot
of money independently to invest in local loop unbundling or sell.
were going to have to build the network and invest in media
technologies. Kordia as a network and broadcast type company, had the
two pieces of the puzzle that we lacked," he said.
He has no qualms about Orcon becoming part of a state-owned enterprise.
"It's certainly not the case that the Government wanted to do this to create a competitor to Telecom," he said.
hasn't had a lot of interest from the ISPs in terms of taking some of
their services up. They've some great products they want to sell like
DVB-H [mobile TV]."
While Telecom and its rivals in the broadband
market have traditionally had an acrimonious relationship, Woodhouse
decided in 2004 to stand virtually alone and accept the products
Telecom offered in lieu of unbundling.
"At that time it didn't
look like we'd end up with local loop unbundling. Theresa [Gattung]
didn't expect it was going to happen, let alone myself."
approach was to make the most of a bad situation. "I don't think we got
any concessions [from Telecom], but the working relationship was the
most amicable and productive of any of the ISPs."
internet industry players are under pressure as they lose profitable
dial-up internet customers to broadband, where the margins are lower
because most operators simply resell Telecom's services.
issue at the moment for ISPs is if a consumer spends $40 a month on a
phone line, $20 on tolls and $40 on broadband, traditional ISPs don't
get to attack much of that and even if they do, most of the money goes
to Telecom in a wholesale arrangement."
That would change with
unbundling and Woodhouse believes the opportunity will be "vast" for
those prepared to invest in or to use Telecom's copper cables.
never had any particular mentor in business, but had drawn inspiration
from ihug founders Nick and Tim Wood, who grew their business from
similarly inauspicious beginnings. They sold to Australian internet
provider iiNet in a deal worth around $108 million.
brothers were an early inspiration, because they were in the game a
year ahead of me. It was always a case of me having to catch up to Tim
and Nick. They did really well exiting a few years ago and got more
money than Ihug sold for [to Vodafone]."
Until he spots an
attractive alternative energy investment opportunity, Woodhouse plans
to travel, take some holidays and research further the effects of
"If a light bulb switches on in my head and I
decide the best thing to do is buy a heap of land in the South Island
and start growing sugar cane, that's what I'll do."
Whatever he now does, Woodhouse says it will have to consume him.
had a burning passion in the early days of Orcon for a good five years,
working 16 hours a day solid," he said. "If I do anything in the
future, I want something that's going to get me that excited."
Thursday Jun 14, 2007 By Peter Griffin sourced from NZ Herald
Picture is of Kordia CEO Geoff Hunt and Seeby Woodhouse after signing the sale and purchase agreement of Orcon to Kordia.