Former Rich Lister Joseph Gutnick declares bankruptcy

Joseph Gutnick

Source: AAP Image/Julian Smith

He was once counted among the wealthiest Australians, but former mining magnate Joseph Gutnick has declared bankruptcy, with reported debts of $275 million.

Back in 2010, Gutnick returned to the BRW Rich List with estimated wealth of $300 million, after an absence of more than 10 years. At the time he owned a string of small mining companies that were exploring for everything from diamonds and gold to uranium and phosphate. He was still among Australia’s 200 richest people in 2014, when BRW estimated his wealth to be more than $250 million.

But six years later, the once high-flyer has declared himself bankrupt at the end of last week after a business deal with a fertiliser group in India fell through. According to Fairfax, which has obtained a copy of Gutnick’s statement of affairs, his debts to creditors total $275 million.

Of that figure, $54 million is owed to Gutnick’s former business partner Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO), which was due to argue in court on Monday that Gutnick should be declared bankrupt. Gutnick’s wife Stera Gutnick is reportedly owed more than $30 million, while Westpac Bank is owed $4 million. The Australian Tax Office is also a creditor, owed more than $42,000, as are credit card providers American Express, Visa and Diners Club.

The businessman who is known as “Diamond Joe” reportedly has no other assets apart from approximately $16,000 in savings and a small portfolio of shares.

It’s a far cry from the 1990s, when Gutnick’s career was at its peak. Here’s the three pivotal decades in Gutnick’s career:

The 1980s: Shares

Gutnick was once described as the man who could “make share prices dance” and up until the end of the 1980s, shuffling shares was how the then young entrepreneur started to build his fortune.

However, the stock market crash of 1987 near ruined the investor. As the famous tale goes, it was Gutnick’s rabbi that advised him to search for gold and diamonds in Western Australia, earning him the nickname “Diamond Joe”.

2. The 1990s: Gold

While he didn’t uncover swathes of diamonds, Gutnick did chance upon gold in Western Australia and throughout the 1990s this is where he accumulated vast amounts of wealth via his Grand Central Mines companies and later, the Bronzewing gold deposit. In 1997, Gutnick was named “Digger” of the year in Kalgoorlie.

It was also in the 1990s that Gutnick rescued the Melbourne Football Club, serving as president from 1996 to 2001.

The 2000s: Nickel and fertiliser

Gutnick turned to nickel production in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but in 1999, he was ordered to pay $28.5 million to investors over the takeover of a mining company. His nickel venture Centaur Mining & Exploration collapsed in 2001.

More recently, Gutnick reportedly had ambitions to create a global fertiliser group and in 2008, announced a deal worth more than $100 million for he and his business Legend International to supply phosphate from Queensland to IFFCO.

SmartCompany attempted to contact Gutnick but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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