NZB Chairman Joe Walls Retires

4 June 2024

Joe Walls on the rostrum for the final time at Karaka 2017 

Distinguished New Zealand thoroughbred industry leader Joe Walls (MNZM) has retired from his role as Chairman of the NZB Board of Directors, bringing to a close his illustrious tenure with the auction house that spanned more than five decades.

Joe started with the company in 1972, when it was known as Wright Stephenson’s, and as a world regarded auctioneer led the auctioneering team from the late ‘80s through to 2017. He steered the business as Managing Director from 1993 through to 2000, before presiding as Chairman from 2006 through to 2024. 

Revered for his command of the rostrum, the flair and assuredness with which Joe wielded the gavel to navigate the course of a Sale was unrivalled. Amidst the pace and pressure of high-stakes trading in the sales ring, Joe’s composure was steadfast, his wit was quick and his decisions were respected. 

A great judge of a horse, Joe’s exceptional eye has been relied upon by many an astute investor when making critical bloodstock selections. From domestic yearling purchases to assessing and importing international stallions and broodmares, the scale and impact of Joe’s bloodstock oeuvre on the New Zealand breeding industry cannot be overstated.

While the rich timbre of Joe’s voice became synonymous with the sales, it is his massive contribution off the rostrum that will be his legacy. Working alongside the likes of industry leaders Sir Patrick Hogan and Sir Peter Vela, Joe has played a pivotal role in the strategic direction, growth and success of not only NZB’s development, but the whole of the New Zealand breeding industry. Notably, Joe worked in close consultation with his dear friend, the late Sir Patrick Hogan, when he made the breed-shaping decision to purchase Sir Tristram, forever changing the landscape of the New Zealand thoroughbred industry and putting it on the international map.

The late Sir Patrick Hogan shaking hands with Joe Walls following his final run on the rostrum

When Joe announced his retirement from his position as Head Auctioneer in 2017, Sir Patrick reflected on the esteem in which Joe was held globally.

“The contribution that Joe has made to the New Zealand thoroughbred industry is enormous. Because of Joe’s charisma and reputation he opened many, many doors for those of us that travelled the world doing business in the thoroughbred industry.” 

“I can’t think of anyone in the New Zealand thoroughbred industry that I would speak of as highly as I speak of Joe. He is recognised as one of the great auctioneers in the world.”

NZB principal Sir Peter Vela will now step into the role of Chairman after working closely alongside Joe for many years.

“I extend my deepest gratitude on behalf of the NZB board, staff and the New Zealand breeders to Joe for his unparalleled wisdom and guidance throughout his tenure with us.”  

“He has shared in every challenge and success that the company has experienced in the past three decades since my brother and I bought the business, and it has benefitted greatly from his contribution. It has been a pleasure both professionally and personally to have had Joe as part of the NZB family, and he has earned an honoured place in the company’s history.”

Joe and his wife Wendy are based in the beachside township of Whitianga and, while a quieter pace of life is calling, Joe still plans to maintain an interest in the great game.

Joe Walls

“Wendy and I are looking forward to spending a bit more time to ourselves at the beach, although I do keep in touch with the business of horse racing and breeding daily and will continue to do so.” 

“I’m passionate about the industry and about New Zealand Bloodstock, having spent 50 odd years very involved with the business, and it is hard to let go, however I have now decided to do that. It was obvious to me that Peter should take over and I know that the company is in very capable hands with him at the helm. 

“From when I started out as a fresh-faced lad, I never ever thought I would scale the heights that I did, travel the world as I did and make the friends that I did over the years. It has been a wonderful journey. 

“I am keen to continue my interest in this great industry when it suits me. My enjoyment of the game is not in the least diminished and to retain some level of engagement will bring me great satisfaction.”

From 2002 to 2005 Joe also served as Chairman of New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing, he was on the Board of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing from 2011 to 2014 and, in 2018, he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the horse racing industry.