The cover of Chris Lee’s THE BILLION DOLLAR BONFIRE features a photo by Brian High in which Allan Hubbard is walking on the deserted beach south of Oamaru where Shag River meets the ocean. Hubbard told High that he felt at peace on the beach and that he could imagine that this was where he would live out the last chapter of his life. Reality is stranger than fiction because six years later Hubbard dies on that beach. The helicopter that had lifted him from the car crash he was in, interrupted its flight to Dunedin because Hubbard was failing.
For this book about the collapse of South Canterbury Finance in 2010 and the subsequent bailout by the taxpayer at a cost of one billion dollars, Lee talked to parties from across the spectrum. Lee had known Hubbard for a long time, but as the subtitle indicates, the book is not a one-sided perspective on the events leading to the collapse of this financial institution founded by Hubbard. Lee believes that a similar thing could happen again and this is his main motivation behind writing this book.
A number of chapters, such as Rags, Riches, Ruin and Hubbard’s Last Day are about Hubbard’s personal life, but most of the chapters are intense studies of the complexities involving Allan Hubbard and South Canterbury Finance. The collapse had a huge effect on South Canterbury including Lake Tekapo. Many businesses, individuals and clubs had investments in the company and the uncertainty, confusion, disbelief and aftermath have affected the district for years.
This book is perfect for those who are interested in a comprehensive account of what happened to Allan Hubbard and South Canterbury Finance and for those who are fascinated by the complexities of the financial sector.
THE BILLION DOLLAR BONFIRE, How Allan Hubbard and the government destroyed South Canterbury Finance by Chris Lee. $40.