Home' The Wellingtonian : June 23rd 2011 Contents 12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, JUNE 23, 2011
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Ian Wells: Newspapers and sport
Ian Wells: ''Chris [Lewis] was a delight. Whenever I went to Sydney I'd look him up and go out to dinner.''
Joseph Romanos talks to former newspaper man
and sports administrator Ian Wells about Charlton
Heston, the demise of The Evening Post and why
he likes living in the eastern suburbs.
What was the background to
that tennis match Charlton
Heston played in Wellington?
I was a sports reporter for The
Dominion and I d have these
ideas. In 1966, we heard from the
US Embassy that Heston was
coming over. I d seen a story in a
tennis magazine about celebrities
playing tennis on a street in South
Africa and thought we could do
that in Wellington. We got Peter
Snell plus two good local players,
Robert Clarke and John Souter,
lined up. John Reid, the cricketer,
Did it go well?
Extremely. Mercer St was
blocked off, and about 10,000
people turned up. People were on
walls, window ledges, everywhere.
I had a bit of trouble putting up
the net -- I hadn t taken account of
the camber in the road. Heston
was a a pretty good player and
entered into the spirit of it. It was
a lot of fun.
You did a similar thing with
golf, didn't you?
Sort of. Bob Charles had played
an exhibition series against Gary
Player, which I d covered. The fol-
lowing year I was involved when
Tony Jacklin came out to play
some exhibitions with Charles.
That's very entrepreneurial
for a sports reporter.
I had these flashes of ideas. It
led to me moving into the
promotions area for the paper,
and eventually higher up in man-
You were ideally suited for
management because you'd
been a journalist and also had
I suppose so. I took accountancy
at Rongotai College and studied it
more it after I left.
After being head of Welling-
ton Newspapers for years, you
left before the online
explosion hit. How would you
have enjoyed that?
I m happy I did it when I did.
However, it would have been a
What do you think of The
Dominion Post now?
Very good. There s such a lot of
information in there. I never miss
a day of reading it.
What about the decision to
close The Evening Post?
I had a lot of affection for The
Post, but it was the right decision.
Wellington could no longer sus-
tain two papers.
You've had a lifetime as a
sports administrator. First
tennis -- what was the attrac-
I don t know really. When I
started in the early 1970s I had no
idea I d go on being chairman [of
the national association] for 20
years. But it was a good era. Our
Davis Cup team underpinned
everything. Onny Parun, Brian
Fairlie, Chris Lewis, Russell
Simpson, Kelly Evernden, Brett
Steven. They were good players
and one or two or them were very
good. They were all great to deal
with, no funny stuff, all eager to
represent their country. You com-
pare them with what s around
now -- it s appalling.
Were you there when Lewis
reached the Wimbledon final?
Yes, very exciting. That effort
was the individual highlight of my
time in tennis. Chris was a
delight. Whenever I went to Syd-
ney I d look him up and go out to
dinner. He was close to Tony
Roche, who I also liked very much.
You were also involved in
I was, through Miramar
Rangers. I am an eastern suburbs
boy, and that was our local club. I
enjoyed my time with the club. I
recall dealing with Wynton Rufer.
He was a great player and easy to
deal with. He knew his own mind.
You were largely respon-
sible for the Phoenix coming
to Wellington. You must be
proud of that.
John Dow and I worked hard for
Wellington to get the licence for a
New Zealand team in the Aust-
ralian competition. Our problem
was we couldn t raise the money.
Then one day Terry Serepisos is
having a haircut, hears about the
problem and decides to back the
team. Three hours later there s $1
million in the bank. You wouldn t
write a fiction story like that!
It's made a big difference to
soccer in Wellington.
Well, if the Phoenix weren t
here, and such a success, there s
no way New Zealand s World Cup
qualifier against Bahrain would
have been here. It would have
been played at Albany in front of
250 people. Instead if was one of
the great nights of New Zealand
More recently you were
chairman of the Cricket Wel-
I d always followed cricket. I
only got as far as the second XI at
Rongotai. But [son] Jason played
for Wellington for a long time, and
I got to know various people in
Wellington cricket hasn't
exactly distinguished itself
No, the results have been poor.
A shame because Gavin Larsen
[chief executive] is such a good
bloke, and I liked Anthony Stuart
[the recently departed coach].
Why are you such an eastern
suburbs man? Could you
imagine living in, say, Khan-
No, I ve always liked it in the
east. I ve lived in three suburbs --
Hataitai, Miramar and Seatoun.
We re moving shortly to an apart-
ment in Oriental Bay, but even
then it s on the east side of Wel-
lington. I like the feel of this side
of the city, and the view.
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