Queenstown property developer Kevin Carlin dies

Dec 05, 2023

The man behind Queenstown’s Carlin Hotel, Kevin Carlin, has died aged 69.

Mr Carlin is reported to have died of natural causes.

He was in the news in 2022 with the completion of his $30 million luxury hotel in central Queenstown.

With seven storeys and 14 suites, the “beyond five-star” Carlin Boutique Hotel and its upmarket restaurant, Oro, was Mr Carlin's retirement project.

Stuff’s Debbie Jamieson has reported that his life was one of rags to riches.

The son of a symphony arranger and composer, Mr Carlin grew up in California a young virtuoso, skilled on eight instruments by the time he was 10.

But at 17, he fled his abusive family and lived in a tent for almost a year while completing his education and training as a chef.

At the age of 23, he convinced investors to back his ambitions to own a 200-seat restaurant, and after a call to assist on a Van Halen tour, he also began work as a private chef and butler.

His clients included celebrities such as Olivia Newton-John​, Ozzy Osbourne​, John Travolta, Sting and the Police, Foreigner, and Tom Petty.

He designed and developed mobile kitchens that he patented. The kitchens were used by the United States Army in Kuwait and sold in 10 countries.

After 10 years, he sold the company to a firm that was listed on the New York Stock Exchange and whose directors included Hillary Clinton​.

He moved to New Zealand to retire about 30 years ago, feeling disillusioned with the development of society in the United States.

He developed New Zealand’s first gated community – the 41-section Lakeside Estates – as well as The Waterfront Hotel in Queenstown and the Styx Mill Country Club near Christchurch.

More recently, he was on Australia’s Gold Coast, developing and selling high-end properties.

In Queenstown, Mr Carlin has also been involved in developing a five-star Radisson-branded hotel​ with Australia-based partner Centuria.

In 2003, he composed 14 orchestral pieces that were performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for an album, The Princess of Wales: A Musical and Pictorial Memoir​. It reached No 23 on the New Zealand music charts.

Prince Charles, now King Charles III, met him at St James’ Palace in London and accepted the album for release.

“Music was a chapter in my life. I see property development and music as equally creative,” Carlin told Stuff in 2017.

Olivia Wensley, a Queenstown friend of Mr Carlin’s, said he was unusually talented in multiple domains.

“He was very intelligent, kind and generous. He was a true entrepreneur and accomplished inventor.

“He had a passion for excellence and attention to detail in everything he did and lived a remarkable life as a result.”

Mr Carlin is survived by four children.

Main Image (Tourism Ticker): Kevin Carlin.

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