wealth management

Best and worst of 2012: Titanic thinkers, fallen magnates and epic stuff-ups

Cara Waters /

feature-titanic-days-200The woman worth $20 billion who thinks she’s a small business person, the employee who hoarded 20 tonnes of stationery, the entrepreneur who cashed in on 50 Shades of Grey and the chief executive who was brought down by his personal Facebook account.

The heroes, villains and ordinary small business people covered in SmartCompany haven’t disappointed this year.

Yes, it’s time for SmartCompany’s annual awards for the greatest achievements and biggest brouhahas. If you think we’ve missed something, let us know in the comments below.

The Titanic thinker award: Clive Palmer

In a country that counts Gina Rinehart and Nathan Tinkler among its wealthiest inhabitants, the title of most eccentric billionaire was fiercely contested. However, the clear winner is billionaire Clive Palmer who announced he is moving into politics as well as building a life-size replica of the Titanic.

The plug and pray award: Click Frenzy

Click Frenzy, the self-appointed Australian version of the American Cyber Monday deals, debuted to a lot of hype and a fizzer of a launch.

Advertisers were left seething after they paid up to $30,000 to be a part of the online shopping event only for Click Frenzy’s website to crash under the “unexpectedly high” volume of traffic.

Given that high volumes of traffic were the whole point of Click Frenzy the promoter’s explanations left many scratching their heads.

Worst employee award: Where do all the pens keep going?

Businesses were urged to keep an eye on the stationery cupboard after a German man was found to have hoarded 30 years’ worth of pens, pencils and post-it notes in his backyard in a trove weighing more than 20 tonnes.

“This usually happens when offices have a stationery cupboard that is open and just refilled to a certain level constantly,” Cost Reduction Analysts chief executive Debra Mills told SmartCompany.

Worst boss award: A nasty stain that needs laundering

The gong goes to the Mildura businessman who was fined  $50,000 by the Melbourne Magistrates Court after subjecting his employees to “disgusting and appalling” behaviour that included death threats and verbal abuse.

Magistrate Hugh Radford heard that Kevin Andrews, who owned a laundry in Mildura, told employees that one “should have been drowned at birth”, and called others “big fat bush pig” and “wog”. He also told one employee that a rapist was “waiting” for her, and that women were “dogs”.

What a treasure he would be to work for.

The runner-up is the Melbourne real estate agent who the Fair Work Ombudsman found discriminated against a female employee when it dismissed her because of her “overall young look”, saying she was “too young”, was “too short” and would not have the presence to effectively negotiate at auctions.

Small business woman of the year award (Bizarro World edition): Gina Rinehart

Gina Rinehart appears to be living in an alternate universe after declaring herself a small businesswoman at the launch of her new book.

Most small businesses may not have felt they have much in common with Australia’s richest person, whose wealth is estimated at $20 billion, but Rinehart assured small businesses that she was really one of them in a whirlwind tour of Australia to launch the book.

The mining magnate distanced herself from multinational miners who, she said, were better able to deal with the regulation that surrounds the mining industry.

“BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have floors of people working on these approvals [but] it is really hard for small and medium business,” she said.

Brutal honesty award: Brad Skelton

Usually, company collapses are shrouded in mystery and the only information is delivered via the administrator, liquidator or receiver.

However, when Skelton Sherborne collapsed the founder and director of the shipping company placed an apology letter on the internet and continued to detail the receivership of the company over his personal blog.

Brad Skelton went down fighting and managed to dish out some last minute criticism of administrators Deloitte and bank HSBC before Skelton Sherborne folded.

Fallen knight, crashing jet award: Nathan Tinkler

At the start of 2012, the coal magnate was valued at $1.13 billion on the Rich List. However, his fall from grace has come quickly, with his luxury car business, horse racing empire and private jet and helicopter all being placed in administration or seized by receivers.

Tinkler’s not out yet as he still holds a stake in Whitehaven of more than 200 million shares, worth $697 million based on the company’s share price but it’s unclear how much debt is attached to these shares.

Fifty shades of green award: Shane Yeend

Two years after selling off his games business, entrepreneur Shane Yeend has re-entered the sector in order to capitalise on the success of publishing sensation Fifty Shades of Grey.

Yeend’s business, Imagination, is releasing Fifty Shades of Grey: Party Game, in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia just in time for Christmas.

The game has the tag line “Reveal Your Inner Goddess” and is based on the best-selling Fifty Shades trilogy, which have collectively sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is the former editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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