Robert Holt arrived in New Zealand in 1859, reputedly with half a crown in his pocket only.
By 1868 he owned a freehold section in Napier and in 1869 he was in business on his own account. He moved premises in 1872, installing a steam-powered sawmill in Hastings St, Napier, and in 1880 a second steam sawmill in Port Ahuriri.
Holt sold kauri imported from Auckland as well as rimu, totara and kahikatea, processing the timber for flooring, posts, palings and house blocks.
By about 1910 the business was trading as Robert Holt & Sons. In 1971 it merged with timbermiller Carter Consolidated to form Carter Holt Holdings.