Anthony Pratt, second on the BRW Rich 200 at $7.64 billion with his family, has more doubled his wealth since he inherited the leadership of Visy in 2009.
Photo: Jesse Marlow
Big wealth is back. This year’s BRW Rich 200 list contains a record 39 billionaires, ranging from mining magnate Gina Rinehart, the list’s wealthiest person with a $20.01 billion fortune, to a pair of 34-year-old technology entrepreneurs in Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar.
The 39 billionaires pip the previous high of 38 in 2008, which was recorded only months before the global financial crisis struck, and are three more than a year ago.
Such is the power of the billionaires that the average wealth of the entire list of 200 closes in on the $1 billion mark at $968 million, up 9.5 per cent from 2013.
As well as Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar, London-based hedge fund manager Michael Hintze joins the billionaire ranks for the first time with his $1.37 billion wealth.
Only seven of the 39 lost wealth over the past 12 months. Andrew Forrest gained the most in value. The chairman of Fortescue Metals Group added $2.2 billion to reach $5.86 billion as shares in his iron ore miner bounced back after a difficult 2013.
But falling iron ore prices caused a big fall for two other billionaires, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer.
Rinehart dropped $2.01 billion and Palmer fell almost $1 billion to $1.22 billion due to his ongoing legal battle with Citic Pacific, which is developing the Sino Iron project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The legal stoush threatens the value of Palmer’s royalty payments.
Several younger entrepreneurs among the billionaires are making their mark. Anthony Pratt, second on the list at $7.64 billion with his family, has more doubled his wealth since he inherited the leadership of cardboard manufacturing and recycling giant Visy from his late father Richard in 2009.
Similarly, James Packer’s wealth has bounced back to pre-GFC levels thanks to one of his best years.
His Crown Resorts has performed strongly, including wining approval for the casino and hotel project at Barangaroo on Sydney’s harbour.
Packer’s wealth this year reaches $7.19 billion, enough to place third, and is back to about the same level as 2006, when he first appeared on the Rich 200 after his father’s death at the end of 2006.
Westfield Group founder Frank Lowy places fourth. He increased his wealth to $7.16 billion from $6.87 billion a year ago despite criticism of his Westfield restructure.
Lowy now has more of his fortune invested with his private investment company LFG Holdings than Westfield Corporation and Scentre Group.
Swiss-based Ivan Glasenberg rounds out the top five. The Glencore Xstrata chief executive, who gained Australian citizenship in the 1980s, lifted his wealth by $1.01 billion because of Glencore’s rising share price.
The average wealth of the list reaches $968 million, up 9.5 per cent from 2013. The average age of the 200 individuals is 64 and 14 of the list are women – the same number as last year.
While many billionaires still make their money in more traditional pursuits such as property development and retail, Atlassian co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar represent the next wave of wealth.
The pair became the first Generation Y technology entrepreneurs to enter the billionaire ranks in their own right. They are worth $1.07 billion and $1.06 billion respectively.
There is also a rise in Chinese-born Australian billionaires. Property developer Hui Wing Mau placed sixth at $6.35 billion and paper packaging magnate Huang Bingwen was 26th with $1.26 billion.
The youngest debutant on the list is 30 year old Owen Kerr, the co-founder of online foreign currency dealer Pepperstone. He is worth $250 million.
Kerr is joined on the list by 81-year-old debutant Michael Crouch, founder of Zip Industries which makes the Zip Hydrotap. His wealth is $310 million, having sold a large portion of Zip Industries to private equity firm Quadrant Investments last year.
Among those departing the list are Wotif.com founder Graeme Wood, whose wealth is below the $250 million cut-off due to Wotif’s falling stock price and a series of shares sales.
Wood expressed no regret about missing the list. “My intention has always been to disappear from the Rich List before I die while making a bit of an impact along the way,” he said.
“Done the former, not sure about the latter. Even if the next few dice rolls get lucky I’m hoping I remain immune from the glory of the [Rich] 200.”
Five of 2013 list died over the past year, including billionaire Perth developer Len Buckeridge and Ian Norman, the co-founder of retailer Harvey Norman.
The full 2014 Rich List