When you’re one of New Zealand’s most famous faces, finding your father a Christmas present should be no problem. But Renee Wright’s father, Warren Wright, used to own a McDonald’s restaurant and a New World supermarket – he’s the man who has everything.
In the end Warren’s wife Marian came up with a unique present – his own ghostwriter to record his autobiography. The self-made millionaire always felt he had a book in him, and that book is Bullets, Burgers & Baked Beans – his life story along with advice for business success.
TVNZ presenter Renee (31) is used to life in the public eye, but now that it’s Warren’s turn to shine she couldn’t be happier. It was a producer at TVNZ, where Renee works, who came up with the name for her father’s book: Bullets stands for the 19 years Warren spent in the police, burgers for his time as a McDonald’s owner and baked beans for his investment in New World Porirua.
Warren (58) and Marian’s partnership in business stems from their 38-year marriage. They first met in third form (year 9) at Tararua College in the Wairarapa when Marian’s big sister bowled up to Warren and his mates to demand who was going to take her sister to a dance. Warren’s friends bolted, leaving him standing there. “I will,” Warren spoke up. “I was besotted with him,” Marian recalls. “He was such a gentleman.”
The couple’s first taste of business was when Marian started a modelling and grooming school in Hamilton. It was a big success, along with their Miss New Zealand Waikato franchise.
When Warren left the police the couple decided to risk everything, including their house on Auckland’s North Shore, to buy a McDonald’s restaurant in Napier. They spent 10 years there, followed by another 10 years at New World.
They are now living on the North Shore again to be close to their eldest daughter Renee, and her son – and their first grandchild – Leo (1). Their other daughter Monique (30) lives in Australia and is expecting her first baby, and son Peter (24) is studying commerce at The University of Auckland.
“I’m proud of all my children,” Warren says.”I always knew my kids would get university degrees. It was never an option not to. They learned at a very early age that if you want the nicer things in life, and you want to work hard, then you can have them – financial success gives you more choices. But you’ve got to give and then the taking takes care of itself.”
The couple have watched their eldest daughter’s career progress from her start in radio in Waikato to becoming a weather and news presenter at TVNZ.
“Renee has that focus. She never complained about work,” says Marian. It’s a work ethic she has inherited from her parents, who are now looking for their next business opportunity.
Warren believes you need to take risks to get ahead, but that it can be necessary to take a step sideways to make progress. “This book has been written in my mind over a 40-year period. The seed has been sown at the hundreds of talks I’ve done and almost without exception someone comes up and says, ‘I was motivated by that – why don’t you write a book?’”
Walking hand and hand along Takapuna Beach, it’s clear Warren and Marian are still in love. “We were both country kids. We were both naive but we dreamed,” Marian says.”We have this saying, ‘We hold hands and we jump off the cliff together.’ Plus we’re really good mates.”
“We’ve always dreamed a lot,” Warren adds. “I think when you dream and talk about your future then that’s where your goals start to form.” Warren and Marian have employed more than 1000 staff over the years, and it’s a role they take seriously.
“We are caring people. We’ve had this umbrella of a family culture as opposed to a business approach that is all about profit. One thing that came out of McDonald’s is that you’re taught very early to give back to your community and we took that into our supermarket as well,” says Warren.
Warren has dedicated his book to Marian and their children. “We’ve got a great love and a passion for each other. That’s flowed on to our family and it’s flowed on to what we’ve done in the past 40 years.”
Bullets, Burgers & Baked Beans ($34.95) is available from Amazon, Whitcoulls and Warren’s website: warrenwright.co.nz