Welcome to the Rich List club

Have we all officially recovered from Gina Rinehart mania? BRW’s decision to value Australia’s iron ore queen at an incredible $29.17 billion has grabbed headlines around the globe as the magazine declared the world had a new richest woman.

While Rinehart’s valuation looks aggressive, there is no mistaking the impact the rise in her wealth had on the list.

When you include Gina, the total wealth of the list increased 8.4% to $181.2 billion.

Take her out, and the total wealth actually dropped by 3.1%.

It’s clearly a lost year for many of the rich. Of the 187 members who remained on the list from last year, 104 saw their wealth fall.

Andrew Forrest, Ivan Glasenberg, Clive Palmer (who didn’t fall far enough in my opinion) and Gerry Harvey were all among the billionaires who lost ground as the mining sector stumbled and retail remained stuck in the doldrums.

“We are all getting poorer,” Robert Magid told BRW, presumably after seeing his own fortune “plunge” from $352 million to $330 million.

Still, a 3.1% fall ex-Gina isn’t actually that bad a result when you consider the ASX 200 was down by around 13% over the last 12 months.

The rich certainly know how to ride out a rough patch.

But let’s put all that aside. The BRW Rich 200 is a celebration and it’s only fitting that we look for the bright spots.

And, to me, there’s nothing brighter than the new members of the list.

This year there are just 13, down from a record 28 debutants last year. But there are some great new faces – here are five I’ve picked out:

1. Graham Tuckwell

This is a great find by BRW – I certainly wasn’t familiar with Graham Tuckwell, the majority owner of ETF Securities and the man known as the founding father of the exchange traded funds sector. Tuckwell, who launched his first exchange traded commodity in 2003, has faced a torrid few years – with his business just gathering steam, the GFC almost derailed his company because ETF was backed by AIG. But Tuckwell recovered and he is now worth $775 million. In an interesting twist, he is set to sell his stake in ETF Securities to focus on philanthropy.

2. Gabby and Hezi Leibovich

There is nothing we love more than following a company from the Smart50 through to the big leagues of Australian wealth and that’s exactly what’s happened for Gabby and Hezi Leibovich, the founders of online retail pioneer Catch of the Day. Last year, the company received $80 million funding from a consortium of backers including James Packer, and the Leibovich brothers have already expanded, including into the wine sector. That deal valued the business at $200 million and left the brothers with a 60% stake; BRW’s valuation of the pair at $245 million suggests the value of the company has risen sharply. As the big retailers such as Myer and Harvey Norman find themselves in the descent, it is businesses like Catch of the Day that are on the rise.

3. Chris Thomas

Australia’s food sector has been under tremendous pressure in the last few years, but Chris Thomas represents a bright spot. Thomas is the owner of T&R Pastoral, Australia’s third-largest meat producer and a company with more than $1 billion in revenue. Thomas is a great shop-floor-to-the-corner-office story; he left school to become a jackeroo and worked his way up in the industry, starting T&R in 1998. Today, the company is an export powerhouse, sending about 85% of its production offshore.

4. Ken Grenda

Melbourne entrepreneur Ken Grenda lived in anonymity until September last year, when he sold his business and became acclaimed as Australia’s best boss after sharing $20 million in bonuses with his staff. The Grenda group – which included public transport operations and a bus manufacturing business – was sold for $400 million, which has been split six ways between Ken and his wife Margaret and their children. What’s really interesting about the Grenda family is their willingness to tackle succession planning very thoroughly, with the family starting annual reviews of its business and succession plans as early as 1998. Grenda says he has dispersed the proceeds of the sale through the family “because it made sense that you don’t do a Gina Rinehart and the kids inherit when they’re 80.”

5. Therese Rein

Undoubtedly the best-known entrepreneur to join the rich list in 2012 is Therese Rein, wife of former prime minister Kevin Rudd. Her business, formerly known as WorkDirections but now called Ingeus, is a leader in London’s employment services market, having picked up $1.4 billion worth of contracts from David Cameron’s British Government in the last 12 months. While Rein was forced to sell the Australian arm of her business when Rudd became PM, she is rebuilding a local presence. However, while Australian unemployment remains relatively low, Ingeus’ international operations are likely to be the focus.

This article first appeared on SmartCompany.


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