James Thomson Editor

James Thomson is the editor of BRW. Previously he was editor and publisher of SmartCompany and a senior editor at Business Spectator. He writes regularly on Australia's wealthiest entrepreneurs and has deep expertise in small business and the mid market.

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Meet Rebecca Tinkler, our newest female billionaire

Published 18 March 2013 08:57, Updated 19 March 2013 06:52

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Meet Rebecca Tinkler, our newest female billionaire

Nathan Tinkler (left), his wife Rebecca Tinkler and John Singleton. Nathan Tinkler says Rebecca gives him an allowance every quarter. Photo: Fairfax Media

Oh no! BRW’s Rich Woman list omitted a key member – and we’re not talking about Gina Rinehart.

According to embattled coal entrepreneur Nathan Tinkler, it is not he but his wife Rebecca Tinkler who holds the bucks in the family. On Friday, Tinkler told the New South Wales Supreme Court that his wife was the sole owner of the Tinkler Group Family Trust, which he said has $1.2-1.4 billion in assets (he said both at different times) and about $600 million in debt.

Tinkler was fronting the court for a public examination conducted by the liquidator of his private mining company, Mulsanne Resources.

Tinkler, who has been living in Singapore and has said little as his empire apparently crumbled, provided a lot of detail to the court about his finances.

He said he owns no stocks, bonds or cars, with the only decent asset in his name as farm worth about $700,000.

Tinkler said he and his wife hold joint bank accounts that have about $250,000 in them and his taxable income, and those accounts have generated less than $10,000 a year in interest in the past two years.

Tinkler said he gets an “allowance” from his wife every quarter.

“So, your wife gives you money from time to time?” asked Robert Newlinds, a lawyer for the liquidator of Mulsanne Resources.

“I’m very lucky, yes,” Tinkler replied.

But not as lucky as Rebecca Tinkler, apparently. She would appear to be sitting on $600 million clear, even after accounting for the same in debt.

Here at BRW we’ve been following Nathan Tinkler for some time and we are surprised at his suggestion that his wife as much as $1.4 billion in assets.

First of all, the fact they the assets are in his wife’s name would appear to be more about asset protection than anything else – certainly she does not appear to have held an active role in Nathan Tinkler’s business at any stage during his career.

Then there’s the amount of $1.2 billion Rebecca is said to be sitting on.

Tinkler included in this the family’s stake in Whitehaven Coal, currently worth around $480 million. He counted his Patinack Farm horse breeding and racing operation, which he said he could sell for a $100 million profit after debt, although the amount of debt against it is unknown.

He also counted his Hunter Ports and Hunter Rail businesses, plus his copper explorer Aston Metals. He didn’t say how he counted the value of these assets, all of which could be described at best as yet-to-be-developed and at worst as never-to-be developed.

All he would say is: “They all have very good value.”

Maybe, but if we accept that the family trust contains $1.2 billion in assets and the Whitehaven stake is worth $480 million, then the horse business and these other underdeveloped assets are worth more than $700 million.

Frankly, it’s hard to believe they could be valued like that, let alone sold for anything like that.

Tinkler admitted on Friday that he is asset rich and cash poor. That’s one thing everyone can agree on – and one thing unlikely to change any time soon.

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