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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Tinkler toppled as Atlassian tech duo named richest young Australians

Published 26 September 2012 14:56, Updated 27 September 2012 04:16

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Tinkler toppled as Atlassian tech duo named richest young Australians

Technology entrepreneurs and Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar have ousted one-time mining billionaire Nathan Tinkler from the No. 1 spot in BRW’s Young Rich in a stark demonstration of the changing fortunes of Australia’s mining elite.

Tinkler relinquishes the mantle of the wealthiest young Australian for the first time since 2009 following a dramatic collapse in his wealth from $1.13 billion this time last year to just $400 million.

The decline, which is equivalent to losing $2 million a day over the past 12 months, is enough to put Tinkler behind Atlassian’s Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar, who move into the top spot with a shared fortune of $480 million, up from $360 million in 2011.

Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar founded Atlassian straight out of university in 2002 and have since grown the enterprise software developer into a business that employs 530 people around the world and turned over $102 million in 2011.

Its customers include Coca-Cola, eBay, Microsoft, Nike and Ikea.

The relegation of someone from the resources sector by a pair of tech-upstarts hints at a broader trend on the Young Rich: resources is cooling as a way of making vast amounts of money, while technology is still heating up.

Twenty-four of the 100 rich youngsters on the prestigious list, which tracks the wealthiest Australians aged under 41, made their fortunes in technology. Two of the top five spots are occupied by tech entrepreneurs.

PC Tools founder Simon Clausen takes fourth place with wealth of $230 million, behind No. 3 ranked Mark Ackroyd, who amassed his $290 million fortune in infrastructure services. Mining services multimillionaire Ashley Fraser ($195 million) ranks fifth for 2012.

The full Young Rich list is available on brw.com.au and in BRW magazine from Thursday.

The total overall wealth of the Young Rich is down to $5.1 billion from $7.3 billion last year. This is due to two main factors: the big loss by Tinkler and the departure of four of last year’s top six because they turned 41 and are therefore no longer classified as ‘young’.

Tinkler enjoyed years at the top of the Young Rich heap, taking big risks with mining ventures that for a time paid off. He still retains more than $600 million worth of Whitehaven Coal shares but has borrowed heavily against them.

The former billionaire spent massive sums of money on a wide range of investments. Perhaps the best is his stable of racehorses, on which he is believed to have spent up to $300 million with limited success in winning major races.

Entities associated with Tinkler have also encountered trouble in recent months. Queensland coal developer Blackwood is chasing one of the magnate’s private companies over a $28 million equity placement, while Mirvac has initiated court action over a $17 million payment involving a Newcastle land deal.

All of which makes for a confusing picture of Tinkler’s wealth, which undoubtedly is falling fast. But it’s also worth remember that Tinkler has proved his critics wrong before.

While last year’s No. 1 may have suffered a dramatic fall in wealth, about half of the Young Rich have managed to maintain or increased their wealth this year, making for a number of bright stories among listees.

BRW Fast 100 member Nick Armstrong from emissions trading company COZero is the youngest debutant, sharing a $22 million fortune with business partner Geoff Alexander at the age of 28.

Damien Waller from iSelect debuts with a $70 million fortune, which may grow if rumours are true and his company lists on the Australian Securities Exchange. Mitchell Harper and Eddie Machaalani also debut, with a collective worth $110 million stemming from their technology business Bigcommerce, which helps other companies build their own online stores.

Former BRW Entrepreneur of the Year Matt Barrie from Freelancer.com also joins the Young Rich this year, worth an estimated $50 million.

Women have not fared well on the 2012 Young Rich list. Just six have made the cut this year, down from eight in 2011, with muesli millionaire Carolyn Creswell the highest ranked with wealth of $50 million, up from $40 million a year ago. Other women in the 2012 list are Prue Eales, Kylie Radford, Sarah-Jane Clarke, Heidi Middleton and golfer Karrie Webb.

BRW’s Young Rich is out Thursday on newsstands and brw.com.au

with Ben Woodhead

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