2016 North Harbour Business Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Recipient
As a young lad, David worked most holidays in his father and uncle’s paint shop. He would fill the bottles and tins with turpentine, weigh out the putty and serve any customers.
At the end of 1942, his father Lewis announced that David would finish his education as a boarder at New Plymouth Boys High School. David’s best subject at school was mathematics and he developed some mastery in Latin. In the first few weeks at New Plymouth Boys High, David set himself some goals: to pass the university entrance exam; to represent the school in rugby; and, to be a prefect. He attained every one. He was always conscious of the large sum of money his father handed over each term for him to be at New Plymouth.
In 1960, David married Billie Arkle and they moved into an old roughcast house on the water’s edge at Milford with Elizabeth, the first of their two children. Their son, Mark, was born a few years later. After many alterations, David continues to still live in their house at Milford today.
After taking over management of the family paint business at the age of 22 it was on a business trip to the United States in 1959 where David was exposed to trends that were to influence the future direction of the firm profoundly. The most important of these changes were the advent of supermarkets, the rise of the shopping centre and the need for parking for any successful retailing. As David later expressed, “it was like having tomorrow’s newspaper.”
By 1994 there were a total 52 Levene retail stores, plus paint and wallpaper factories. David decided to sell the Levene chain to Skellerup and changed his business to Lewis Holdings Limited (in memory of his father). This new company is the investment vehicle for a large proportion of the family investments. In 1995, David formed a property company called Quadrant Properties which is a significant commercial property developer and owner.
Never one to favour the limelight Sir David believes that giving time is just as important as giving money and the David Levene Foundation is a generous benefactor to many charitable, educational and sporting organisations. There is no doubting that Sir David has been a key influence in our wider community.
David has been made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, awarded an OBE, has received an honorary doctorate in Literature from Massey University and an honorary doctorate in law from Auckland University. He has been inducted into Manukau City’s Business Hall of Fame, Enterprise North Shore’s Business Hall of Fame and New Zealand Business Hall of Fame.