New Zealand media icon Sir Paul Holmes has died at the age of 62.
Best known for being the enigmatic host of his eponymous TVNZ current affairs show from 1989 to 2004, Holmes passed away peacefully early this morning surrounded by his family at home in Hawkes Bay.
Holmes’ career in the media began in 1987 when he took over as host of the breakfast show on Newstalk ZB (then 1ZB) and despite an initial backlash against him he took the station to number one in the ratings.
Only two years later the ‘Holmes’ show debuted and controversy ensued in the very first episode after US America’s Cup skipper Dennis Conner stormed off set midway through an interview.
Holmes made his name as a brilliant interviewer who could get the best out of his subjects, but controversy was never too far away.
He infamously referred to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as a “cheeky darkie” and while he caused outrage and lost a show sponsor, he was still ranked in the New Zealand Listener’s 50 Most Powerful People list until 2005.
He also cheated death in 1989 when he was involved in a helicopter crash into the sea at Anaura Bay on the East Coast of the North Island which killed a fellow passenger. In 2004 he crash landed his Boeing Stearman biplane twice.
More recently Holmes had been the somewhat pained face of the campaign to rid the country of the scourges of the drug ‘P’ after his daughter Millie was arrested and put on trial for possession of the drug. The charges were eventually dropped.
While he continued to be a presence in the media, hosting a Saturday morning show on NewstalkZB and a political talk show on TVNZ until recently, he again stirred controversy with the release of his book ‘Daughters of Erebus’ in 2011 which opened up and shed new light on the country’s deadliest air tragedy.
Holmes’ health became headline news in 2012 when he had heart surgery and was subsequently placed in a drug induced coma to aid his recovery.
He was knighted for his services to broadcasting and the community in the 2013 New Year Honours.
His investiture ceremony was brought forward to January 16 following a request from his family citing his ill health.