Meet Australia’s richest self-made women. From the mysterious Vicky Teoh through to actor Nicole Kidman, bank chief executive Gail Kelly and franchising veteran Leslie Gillespie, this list celebrates Australia’s top female entrepreneurs, executives and earners.
While their numbers on the BRWRich 200 and BRW Young Rich lists remain scandalously low, the new BRW Women’s Rich list will demonstrate the successes of these businesswomen.
To be eligible for this list, candidates must be female Australian citizens and must have been involved in the creation of their personal fortune. Those who inherited the source of their wealth from a previous generation are excluded, as is the case with the BRWYoung Rich list.
1. Vicky Teoh
Its been a rewarding 12 months for low profile Vicky Teoh. Her 18 per cent stake in TPG Telecom has risen in value by $125 million to $380 million after a strong performance by the retail broadband provider. Teoh came to Australia in 1986 with her husband David, who is TPG’s founder and chief executive. Their son Shane joined the TPG board last year. She also has a stake in online prescription glasses retailer Oscar Wylee.
2. Rhonda Wyllie
An experienced residential and commercial property developer, Rhonda Wyllie sits on the board of the Wyllie Group, which manages the family fortune built by her late husband and corporate turnaround specialist John Wyllie. They spent many years in Hong Kong but Rhonda is now Perth-based. She is well known for her charity work and is believed to be good friends with Welsh singer Tom Jones.
3. Patricia Ilhan
Having met her future husband John Ilhan while she was working at Telstra, Patricia Ilhan was closely involved in mobile phones chain Crazy John’s from its earliest days. After John’s death in 2007, she sold her three-quarter-stake in the business to Vodafone for about $150 million and invested the proceeds in a diverse portfolio of assets. Vodafone struggled to integrate the business and announced plans to shut it earlier this year
4. Nicole Kidman
Honolulu-born actress Nicole Kidman is one of Australia’s most successful performers of all time. She has been making blockbuster movies in Hollywood for almost 25 years and recently won plaudits for her role in The Paperboy. Much of her wealth comes from her divorce from Tom Cruise. Now married to country singer Keith Urban, she told the BBC in February: “’My life is totally normal”.
5. Charlotte Vidor
Charlotte Vidor established the Toga Group with her husband Ervin in 1963. Toga is responsible for Medina Serviced Apartments and Vibe Hotels. Charlotte was born in Poland and emigrated to Australia with Ervin after World War II.
6. Therese Rein
The wife of former prime minister Kevin Rudd has built a hugely successful business as the founder and major shareholder of international welfare to work company Ingeus, which has contracts worth more than $1 billion with the British government.
7. Imelda Roche
Imelda Roche was instrumental in the establishment of global cosmetics group Nutrimetics, which she and her husband Bill sold in 1998 for $150 million. The couple then turned their attention to property development and have since handed management responsibility of the Roche Group to their sons. Imelda remains a co-chairman of the group.
8. Christina Quinn
Scottish immigrants Tony and Christina Quinn are behind VIP Petfoods, part of a Gold Coast-based business which turns over about $260 million a year.
9. Penelope Maclagan
A co-founder of share registry business Computershare with her brother Chris Morris, Penelope Maclagan retains many of her shares that have formed the basis of her personal fortune. A former high school maths teacher, Maclagen was chief information officer of Computershare until 2005.
10. Lynette Harvey
Ex wife of Gerry Harvey, most of Lynette Harvey’s wealth is held in Harvey Norman shares. She’s held these shares since their split in 1982.
11. Sarina Russo
Sarina Russo’s education and training services business turns over more than $100 million a year and employs more than 1100 staff. She has been building the business since 1979. An active philanthropist, Russo began her professional career as a typist and has since become one of the wealthiest people in Queensland.
12. Janet Holmes a Court
After her husband Robert died in 1990, Janet Holmes a Court was left with a business that was riddled with a $350 million debt. Janet is credited with successfully turning around Heytesbury before her son Paul bought-out the rest of the family in 2008.
13. Jan Cameron
It’s been an eventful year for Jan Cameron, who made her fortune from outdoor clothing retailer Kathmandu – which she sold in 2006 for $247 million. Recently, her net wealth has been tumbling due to problems associated with discount chain Retail Adventures.
14. Gail Kelly
As the chief executive of big bank Westpac, Gail Kelly has one of the toughest corporate jobs in the country. She was formerly chief executive of St George and started her banking career as a teller in her native South Africa. Most of Kelly’s wealth is from Westpac shares.
15. Kylie Minogue
A quarter of a century at the top of the music game has been highly lucrative for Kylie Minogue. Her 12th studio album is due to be released this year. After starting her performing career on Neighbours, Minogue has also had success as a fashion designer and fragrance entrepreneur.
16. Carla Zampatti
Italian immigrant Carla Zampatti launched her first fashion range in 1965 and has since become one of Australia’s most successful and long-standing fashion designers. She has also proven herself adept at forming a number of corporate partnerships including one with Ford, which led to the production of the Carla Zampatti limited edition Ford Laser.
17. Lesley Gillespie
Roger and Lesley Gillespie opened the first Baker’s Delight store in 1980. There are now more than 700. Lesley is a trained teacher who remains joint chief executive with her husband.
18. Elle Macpherson
One of the first supermodels, Elle Macpherson has proven herself as a savvy business person. Her own lines of lingerie and beauty products have helped boost her wealth. Macpherson has also had success as a television performer, hosting shows including America’s Next Top Model and Fashion Star.
19. Maureen Wheeler
One half of the husband and wife pairing behind the Lonely Planet travel guide company, Maureen Wheeler was born in Belfast and spent almost all of her professional career building Lonely Planet into a publishing giant. Maureen and Tony reportedly met on a park bench in London and wrote their first book South-East Asia on a Shoestring in 1975. The BBC acquired 75 per cent of the business in 2007 and the rest in 2011. Significant portions of the sale proceeds have been donated to charity.
20. Janine Allis
The founder and managing director of Boost Juice Bars, Janine Allis is one of Australia’s best known entrepreneurs. She famously came up with the idea for Boost on a holiday in the US and has since grown it into a $130 million business. More recent projects include the establishment of a Mexican fast food franchise, Salsas.
21. Julia Ross
In 2000, Julia Ross made about $25 million when she sold half of the recruitment company she had built from scratch. Eleven years later industry giant Chandler Macleod spent $27 million on the other half. Julia Ross remains part of Chandler Macleod and is Australia’s second biggest workforce management company.
22. Katie Page
As the chief executive of Harvey Norman, most of Katie Page’s wealth comes from her shares in the listed big-box retailer. She is co-founder Gerry Harvey’s second wife. In 2005, Page became the first woman appointed to the board of the National Rugby League.
23. Carolyn Cresswell
Carolyn Creswell took Carman’s Fine Foods from being a business with little more than 80 customers and a muesli recipe to a major food manufacturer with more than $40 million in revenue. Still only 39, Creswell is the wealthiest woman on the BRW Young Rich list and one of the country’s stand-out entrepreneurs of the past five years.
24. Tania Austin
Tania Austin is managing director of fashion group Decjuba, but it is the chain she built with her ex-husband Nigel Austin that is responsible for making her rich. Cotton On began with one store in Geelong in 1991 and was grown into a retail powerhouse with more than 1000 stores worldwide.
25. Cate Blanchett
Award winning actress Cate Blanchett has been a fixture in Hollywood since starring as Elizabeth I in 1998’s Elizabeth. Currently in her final year as co-artistic director at the Sydney Theatre Company, Blanchett remains a big part of the local arts and philanthropic scene.
26. Lorna Jane Clarkson
The Lorna Jane women’s gymwear chain has about 90 stores. The first was opened by former dental therapist Lorna Jane Clarkson, who remains the business’ chief creative officer.
27. Maxine Horne
Maxine Horne’s fortune comes from her share in listed Vita Group, best known for its Fone Zone brand. Horne is co-founder and chief executive of the company, which floated in 2005. She and her husband David spent $1500 starting the business in 1994.
28. Terri Irwin
Naturalised citizen and widow of prominent performer and naturalist Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin is the owner of Australia Zoo and a big parcel of personal property. She set up her own animal welfare clinic in Australia before moving here permanently.
29. Naomi Watts
Just like her childhood friend Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts has established herself as a star in Hollywood. She has appeared in several high-grossing movies including last year’s The Impossible, which has made more than $150 million in international box office receipts.
30. Shemara Wikramanayake
Potential heir apparent at Macquarie Bank, Shemara Wikramanayake has had a long and highly successful career at the ‘millionaires factory’. Wikramanayake runs Macquarie Funds Group, which contributes a third of the bank’s earnings.