Rich day, poor day: Perth billionaire donates $20 million while pokie king loses $170 million

The fortunes of Perth billionaire Ralph Sarich and gaming machine industry veteran Len Ainsworth took very different turns yesterday.

The fortunes of Perth billionaire Ralph Sarich and gaming machine industry veteran Len Ainsworth took very different turns yesterday.

Sarich, who is best known as the inventor of the orbital piston engine and was valued at $1.05 billion on this year’s BRW Rich 200, pledged $20 million to a new neurosciences research facility in Perth.

The centre will be attempt to find new treatments for a host of conditions, including head injuries, brain tumours, epilepsy, spinal problems and particularly Alzheimer’s disease.

Sarich was prompted to examine providing support in the areas of back injury and neurology after a major car crash left him hospitalised for six months with back injuries.

Sarich’s son Peter Sarich told Fairfax that the family thought it had a “moral obligation to give back to the community. Donating money is a lot better feeling than making money from business. It gives you a sense of immense satisfaction that you can help people in that way.”

Len Ainsworth was left with a headache of a different kind when shares in gaming machine manufacturer Aristocrat Leisure tumbled 20% yesterday after the company shocked the market by downgrading profit for calendar 2008 by 22% on Tuesday.

Ainsworth, who founded the company, no longer has any direct involvement in management but retains a large stake in the company. Yesterday the value of that stake dropped from $838 million to $669 million – $169 million in just six hours of trading.

It’s been a horror year for Ainsworth and Aristocrat, with the company’s share price sinking more than 50% since January. Ainsworth’s stake was worth $1.5 billion at the start of the year.

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