Andrew Heathcote Rich Lists editor

Andrew is BRW's Rich lists editor and is responsible for the Rich 200 and Young Rich flagship issues. He also reports on matters relating to wealth and investment for BRW and The Australian Financial Review.

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Flying high: Flight Centre founders reap a $620m windfall

Published 26 February 2013 14:17, Updated 23 April 2013 08:01

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Flying high: Flight Centre founders reap a $620m windfall

Flight Centre’s shares have lifted from around $17 in June to trade at over $32 in 2013, providing a windfall for Graham Turner (pictured) and fellow founders Geoff Harris and Bill James, all of whom retain big stakes in the travel business. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Three Rich 200 members have made $620 million from their stakes in listed travel agency Flight Centre in little more than eight months.

A tepid reaction by the market to today’s half-year results hasn’t prevented the massive windfall.

Flight Centre posted a $91.8 million net profit for the six months to December 31, 2012, up 13 per cent on the previous corresponding period.

Sales were up 7 per cent to $6.6 billion and the company declared a 46¢ fully franked interim dividend, up 12 per cent.

In announcing the result, managing director Graham Turner said that the company was marginally ahead of targets for the full year.

“Australia and the UK are now entrenched as the company’s largest and second largest profit generators and again delivered record EBIT in challenging trading conditions to underpin Flight Centre’s overall growth,” he said.

Flight Centre stock has been on a strong run since it was trading for as little as $17.03 in June last year. The market’s high expectations meant that it opened down on yesterday’s close of $32.29 and was worth $31.06 in early trading.

Turner and fellow co-founders Geoff Harris and Bill James all retain big stakes in the multinational business. Its first iteration was as a tour operator with a double-decker bus in the UK. The first shop was opened in Australia in 1982.

Long-time boss Turner is a former veterinarian and James a former schoolteacher.

The strong share price growth in recent months will lead to significant increases in the net wealth of Harris, Turner and James when the next Rich 200 is published in May.

On last year’s list they were worth $510 million, $435 million and $405 million respectively.