He may have lived in California for the past 15 years, but former Auckland commercial lawyer Peter Cooper may be his home country’s first multi-billionaire. And its from US property, high-tech and venture capital investments. But home is still where the heart is: New Zealand.

Lawyer-turned-property investor Peter Cooper vanished from New Zealand nearly 15 years ago with hardly a trace. The sharemarket crash had ruined his businesses and opportunities, so he picked up where he left off as a schoolboy.

At 38, he decided to try his luck again in the United States, but this time with wife Sue and five children in tow, including two sets of twins. By very rough estimates, Cooper controls a US fortune that could easily be worth well over $3 billion, though he is not specific about the money.

He owns investments in Silicon Valley high-tech innovative businesses, hedge funds and venture capital outfits. He named a US shopping centre after himself and has a new property empire deep in the heart of Texas.

Prone to get a little vague when pressed about exact numbers, he will admit that he and American partner Brian Stebbins sold a handful of giant US shopping centres for $257 million, which went to their company Cooper & Stebbins, with offices in California and Texas.

That money is helping to pay for Southlake Town Centre, a mini-city near Dallas that will eventually be 350,000sq m.

Southlake is an open-air, 1930s-styled townscape which mimics traditional downtown areas with sidewalks and tree-lined plazas. It will become a community for thousands when it is finished and is only four years into development .

Pressed, Cooper admits Southlake could be valued at more than $800 million when it is completed, spanning 52ha on a block 10 minutes’ drive from the area’s financial engine, Dallas-Forth Worth Airport.

Another Cooper business is hedge fund Cooper & LeVasseur, which holds stakes in four New York Stock Exchange-listed companies which Cooper says are each valued at well over $1.7 billion.

“These are billion-dollar companies,” he casually remarks. And he is talking US dollars. “These are companies which are in transition which have something wrong with them, and it’s all a question of adding value.” And, no, he will not name the companies.

“It’s our intellectual capital so we don’t tell anyone who we invest in.” No website, either.

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