Barb de Corti was working as a fitness instructor in Perth in 1993 when she found a range of cleaning products she thought would be more sensitive to her son’s asthma. A decade on her products are stocked in 10 per cent of homes.
Photo: Ross Swanborough
An eclectic cast of characters have made it on to the BRW Young Rich in its 10-year history. Some have gone on to build much bigger fortunes and qualify for the BRW Rich 200. Others have rarely been heard of since.
In total, 288 people have appeared on the Young Rich since it began in 2003.
Maintaining fast-growing fortunes is difficult; 53 per cent of those who have appeared have done so for less than four years in a row.
Crazy John’s mobile chain founder John Ilhan topped the inaugural list in 2003 with wealth of $200 million, which rose to $300 million the following year.
Ilhan died of a heart attack in 2007. His widow, Patricia Ilhan, has successfully managed the family wealth since and remains on the Rich 200 in her own right.
Former Virgin Australia chief executive Brett Godfrey qualified in 2003 when his move to upset Qantas and Ansett’s stranglehold on domestic air travel began to pay off. Like many Young Rich listers, Godfrey made a lot of sacrifices to build his fortune. “I made it home for dinner on a weeknight 10 times in 10 years.”
Building vast wealth in your 30s is different to securing an income that will look after you in retirement and some alumni have experienced the uncertainty that can result when youthful exuberance and bold ambition collide.
ABC Learning founder and chief executive Eddy Groves topped the list in 2006 with a personal wealth of $260 million.
Within 12 months, his childcare group was in receivership owing creditors $2.7 billion. ABC Learning reported a 62 per cent rise in net profit to $61.6 million for the six months to December 31, 2006. This rapid growth has been cited as a reason for its demise, as was the company’s expansion into the United States.
Groves makes a stark contrast to fellow childcare entrepreneur and former Young Rich lister Michael Gordon, who appeared on the Young Rich list in 2003 ($57 million) and 2004 ($122 million).
Worth an estimated $320 million on this year’s Rich 200, Gordon sold his Peppercorn Childcare chain to Groves in 2004 and has since built his fortune by investing in agricultural assets.
Online payments wunderkind Daniel Tzvetkoff was just 25 years old when he made the Young Rich in 2008 with a shared fortune of $120 million. The gifted web developer devised Intabill, a secure online payment processing system. He was arrested by US authorities in 2010 over money laundering activities made possible by the system and has been in witness protection ever since.
Founder of financial software developer Tomato Technologies Jamieson Pickering appeared on the Young Rich in 2004 with wealth of $40 million after his company listed. A declining share price precipitated a change of ownership and by 2007 Pickering was out of the company. He is now a professional poker player and the owner of Gold Coast nightclubs SinCity and Vanity.
After leaving Virgin in 2010, Godfrey found adjusting to life at a “normal” pace almost impossible. “That I expected to just stop everything was the biggest error of judgment ever,” he says. “I don’t think you can ever just drop the baton, its an inherent thing.”