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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Passport power

Published 25 May 2011 17:09, Updated 26 May 2011 04:45

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Citizen of Australia. These are the three words, innocuously recorded within a lengthy corporate filing, which have led to Ivan Glasenberg debuting on this year’s BRW Rich 200 in second spot with a net wealth of $8.8 billion.

This time last year, few people in Australia would have ever heard of Glasenberg. Although much has been written about him in the business press in the lead-up to the public listing of the world’s leading commodities company, he is most commonly referred to as South African.

Glasenberg’s links to Australia are brief. He lived here for two years in the late 1980s when he was put in charge of Glencore’s Australian operation. During those two years, for reasons that remain unknown to BRW, Glasenberg became an Australian citizen.

BRW recently found filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission from as late as last month that show Glasenberg to be an Australian citizen. Remarkably, his wealth is large enough to have topped the Rich 200 in all previous years except this one and 2008 (when Andrew Forrest’s net worth was $9.4 billion due to the surging share price of Fortescue Metals Group.)

Few details were known about Glencore and the people behind it until it began its pre-IPO process about six months ago. The Glencore listing values the company at about $57 billion and occurs at about the same time as this year’s issue goes on sale. Recent reports from London suggest that the share issue is oversubscribed, which means Glasenberg’s wealth may soon climb even higher.

Market watchers are perplexed about why Glencore is bothering with a public listing. Capital constraints have not been a problem. Over the past 20 years, Glasenberg has changed Glencore from a commodities trading firm into a resources behemoth.

Last year, it turned over $137 billion in revenue. One theory suggests that the dual London and Hong Kong listing is a precursor to a merger with major mining company Xstrata, in which Glencore already holds a 34 per cent stake.

Glasenberg, 53, works hard to protect his privacy. In a rare interview with a London newspaper earlier this month, he gave little away when asked to discuss his post-listing riches. “Haven’t thought about it – I’m too busy with the float, but it’s not going to change my life,” he said.

Eligibility for inclusion in the Rich 200 is decided by two main factors: net worth and country of citizenship.

Claiming “foreigners” as Australian is normally left to showbiz reporters (think Mel Gibson or Russell Crowe) but there is already a precedent on the Rich 200.

Shi Zhengrong has not lived in Australia for 20 years. The Shanghai-based chief executive of solar power company Suntech took out Australian citizenship while studying at the University of NSW as a young man.

BRW’s citizenship rule also works the other way. Rupert Murdoch was taken off the Rich 200 in 1986 after he gave up his Australian citizenship to meet requirements placed on owners of TV stations in the US.

His son, Lachlan Murdoch, who debuts on the list this year, is a dual citizen of Australia and the United States.

Like Glasenberg, Steven Kalmin, Glencore’s 40-year-old chief financial officer, makes his debut this year. Both men were born in South Africa but while Glasenberg stayed, was educated and began his professional career at a South African accounting firm, Kalmin migrated to Australia with his family when he was a child.

In 1990, upon finishing secondary education at Masada College in Sydney, Kalmin began a bachelor of business, majoring in accounting, at the University of Technology, Sydney. He graduated in 1993 and began work as an accountant.

In February 1996, he became a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and retains his membership today.

Kalmin joined Glencore’s Australian division in 1999 – 10 years after Glasenberg’s stint. In 2003, Kalmin and his American-born wife moved to Switzerland so Kalmin could take up a position at Glencore’s headquarters in Baar. Two years later, and still in his mid-30s, Kalmin was appointed by Glasenberg to the exalted chief financial officer role.

The two men are said to share a strong bond; Kalmin is considered Glasenberg’s right-hand man and has been the most prominent Glencore director, aside from Glasenberg, during the pre-listing investor roadshow. Both face significant restrictions on their ability to sell the shares that have made them two of the world’s richest Australians.

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