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Published 12 December 2012 15:22, Updated 17 December 2012 12:02
James Packer has several reasons to be happy this year and not all of them are associated with his new trim and taut figure. His listed casino company Crown has risen in value by 25 per cent while shares in Consolidated Media, part owner of Foxtel, are up 32 per cent. His bid for a NSW casino licence has been a big talking point; Packer’s Crown wants to put a $1 billion casino on Sydney’s picturesque Barangaroo waterfront precinct. An increasing number of wins have shown Packer is much more than the son-of-a-gun. Nine Entertainment Co’s recent woes make his sale of it for $5.6 billion seem rather brilliant.
While the S&P/ASX200 has managed a respectable 6 per cent rise this year, the listed company in which Len Ainsworth has a majority stake – Ainsworth Game Technology – has had a somewhat better rise. Shares in the poker machine company are up from 49¢ at the start of the year to $2.39 at the close of trading on December 7 – a 388 per cent increase. Ainsworth made his first fortune from another poker machine company, Aristocrat Leisure, before giving most of it to his children after a health scare. Aristocrat’s stock rose more than 45 per cent in the year.
When Harold Mitchell sold Mitchell Communications to UK-based media buying company Aegis, he had the choice of taking cash or stock. He took stock and in recent times it has become evident that it was a very smart decision. In July, Japan’s Denstu bought Aegis for $4.8 billion and as one of Aegis’ biggest shareholders, Mitchell was handsomely rewarded. His 4 per cent stake reaped about $200 million – double what he would have got had he taken cash two years earlier.
The worse things get for the major media companies, the smarter the Bassat brothers look. Andrew and Paul Bassat are behind online advertising company Seek and ran it together before Paul let Andrew take full control last year. Now worth $2.3 billion, Seek’s successes led to the Bassats returning to the BRW Rich 200 this year. Although a fall in job ads has constrained earnings in recent months, Seek shares are still up 21 per cent this year. A diversification strategy has led to the acquisition of strong performing international job sites and helped ensure that the brothers’ wealth continues to rise.
Nathan Tinklermust be counting the days before he can kiss goodbye to 2012. This is the year it has all come undone for the 36 year old whose aggressive risk taking in the mining sector built him a billion dollar fortune. In September, BRW reported that Tinkler’s wealth had been falling at the rate of $2 million a day and there is little evidence that the blood-letting has stopped. Tinkler began the year by moving to Singapore before merging Aston Resources and Whitehaven Coal. Big falls in the Whitehaven share price following the May merger cut more than $500 million from his wealth and a series of unpaid debts caused further concern. In recent months, creditors associated with his mining, property and sporting ventures have all been asking for money.
The octogenarian has had better months. He’s been spending time with the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption which wants to find out more about the process that led to a company in which he invested, Cascade Coal, getting an exploration licence. Duncan and others were in line to make $50 million each in an attempted sale of Cascade Coal to publicly listed White Energy. Needless to say, having to deny from a witness box that you mislead the stockmarket is not likely to be much fun.
There’s one prize former property developer Lloyd Williams craves more than any other and he got it this year. Williams won the biggest race in the country, the Melbourne Cup, with his locally trained horse Green Moon. William’s spent an estimated $30 million trying to win his fourth Melbourne Cup; he got his first in 1981 with Just A Dash. Apart from the glory, Williams picked up a $3.6 million winner’s cheque and perhaps the motivation he needed to chase the biggest prize in racing for a fifth time.
Australia’s most ebullient billionaire has had another very big year. Among other things, he announced plans to build Titanic II, run against Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan in the next election and build a dinosaur park. Then after falling out of love with the Queensland government, he quit the Liberal National Party. But his biggest problem appears to be with the Chinese miners of his iron ore. They’ve taken out an injunction to stop him repudiating their contract after a dispute over royalty payments.
The Tasmanian offers a lesson in quitting while you’re ahead. Cameron made a fortune starting, building and finally selling outdoor equipment retailer Katmandu. Rather than sit back and count her $250 million, she chose to spend a large portion of it on a struggling group of companies called Australian Discount Retail. It proved a very bad decision as it went into voluntary administration. Although never likely to be destitute, her days on the BRW Rich 200 appear numbered.
Any time you lose more than $10 billion, it’s safe to say you’ve had a bad year – even if you still end it as the richest person in the country. The apparent end of the mining boom has stripped billions of dollars from the value of her mining interests and she will be hoping for a strong rebound in the iron ore price. While the chance of that may not be as great as she would like, it’s probably more likely than a bounce in the price of Fairfax Media or Ten Network Holdings, in which she lost plenty of cash this year. An ugly spat with three of her four children didn’t make 2012 any more enjoyable.