Australians star on Forbes billionaire list – but our secret billionaire has stumbled

Australia punches above its weight when it comes to billionaires, with high-profile mining giants mixing with low-profile billionaires across commodities and media.

Gina Rinehart, already the wealthiest woman in the Asia-Pacific, topped the Australian contingent. She came in 29th on Forbes’ global billionaire list, with her fortune measured at $18 billion, up from $9 billion in 2011. The boost came after Rinehart signed a recent deal with South Korean steel giant Posco to sell a stake of her yet-to-be developed mine.

The increase in Rinehart’s fortune was the second-biggest jump in wealth on the list, which was topped for the fourth straight year by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, whose fortune was listed at $US69 billion.

The top four of the list remained the same from last year. Slim was followed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates with $US61 billion, investor Warren Buffett with $44 billion and French retailer Bernard Arnault with $41 billion.

Gina Rinehart’s partner in protesting against the proposed resources tax, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest was the third-highest-ranked Australian, with his fortune estimated at $4.7 billion.

Both moguls have made headlines for the wrong reasons recently: Rinehart for her badly performing media investments, and the court case run by her children to remove her as trustee of the family’s multibillion-dollar trust; Forrest for the security regulator’s bid to have him banned as a company director.

Between Rinehart and Forrest in the group of Australian billionaires on the list is Ivan Glasenberg, the chief executive of commodities trading giant Glencore, whose fortune is estimated at $7.3 billion after the company’s float last year.

Forbes also sheds light on the woman known as Australia’s secret billionaire, Blair Parry-Okeden. Parry-Okeden owns a stake in the large US media group Cox Enterprises, but moved to Australia some years ago with her ex-husband and now keeps a very low profile in the tiny New South Wales town of Scone.

Her fortune has been estimated at $US6.2 billion this year, but this is down slightly from the valuation of $US6.7 billion in 2011.

Like most media companies around the world, Cox has seen its revenues come under pressure amid uncertain economic conditions.

Media and gaming giant James Packer was fourth on the list of Australians, at $4.7 billion. Packer has emerged as something of an angel investor recently with small investments in group buying business Catch of the Day and ecommerce freight business Temando, but it’s his gambling business that focus his mind – as seen lately by Packer’s Crown raising its stake in Echo Entertainment, owner of Sydney’s Star casino.

And despite high-profile woes in the retail industry, shopping centre giants Frank Lowy and family (owners of Westfield) and John Gandel (owner of Chadstone shopping centre) make the Australian billionaire list.

Fellow retail mogul Solomon Lew is estimated to have a $1.1 billion fortune.

Rupert Murdoch – Australian-born but now a citizen of the US – is valued is $8.6 billion, coming in 106th on the list. Fellow media mogul Kerry Stokes, backer of Seven Media, is also estimated to a have a $2 billion fortune.


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