Tony Falkenstein – sleeping rough

18 June 2014
Tony Falkenstein
Tony Falkenstein

While our donors do amazing things for the Business School and our students, they are also donors to many other wonderful causes.

Tony Falkenstein was a foundation donor with the “Building a world-class Business School” campaign in the mid-2000s and has maintained a fond interest in business education even though he admits to being only an average student at school.

“I passed School Certificate but failed University Entrance twice so started work as a pastry cook,” says Falkenstein. “However, I knew I could do more and eventually, after many years of part-time study, passed my BCom degree at Auckland.”

His company, Red Eagle Corporation, grew into a multi-million-dollar business. His water company, Just Water International, went public in 2004. But Falkenstein was barely known to the wider public until 2003 when Red Eagle underwrote $300,000 to establish Onehunga High School as the country's first business secondary school teaching students the basics behind financial management which Tony believes is the “key to economic prosperity for this country”. He also gave Onehunga High School two million shares in Just Water which gives them a dividend of about $100,000 a year “so they can do special things”.

Tony’s unwavering belief in pushing for business studies has seen him lobby for it to be included in the national curriculum – in 2010 he was successful. Every second year, Tony took a group of students from Onehunga High Business School to New York and Washington DC to meet with business leaders and to experience the hustle and bustle of a vibrant and noisy entrepreneurial metropolis. Last year a group went to China. Exposing young people to real business has lifted many student’s aspirations.  One of the Onehunga High Business School alumni is now creative director for Saatchi & Saatchi in New York.

Tony is also a committed to supporting the Best Leadership Academy led by four-time Olympian Beatrice Faumuina. “This programme will bring out the inherent leadership traits of the Pasifika people and apply those traits to create the best businesses of tomorrow.” The Academy works with the Business School’s New Zealand Leadership Institute, which provides leading faculty to run the programme.

But Tony is, for the fourth year running, going to experience life on the streets – so, no, his wife hasn’t thrown him out of home, he is actually going to be sleeping rough of his own volition. With only a sleeping bag and a piece of cardboard for bedding, Tony is going to join some 100 other New Zealanders as they sleep out for Auckland’s young homeless population at the annual Lifewise Big Sleepout. And being the competitive entrepreneur that he is, he is hoping to beat the other entrepreneurs who are also pledging to give up one night’s comfort for the cold of AUT’s campus.

“I once heard someone on talkback radio say there is no need to be homeless. I thought ‘bugger that’ and pulled over and phoned into the station,” says Tony. “There are many reasons why we have homelessness in New Zealand and if I can make a difference by my one night out on the streets, and by my work with business education, then hopefully I’ve done my bit.”