One of the best parts about reading any new rich list is looking at the newest members. Despite the dire state of the economy – or perhaps because of it, given the cut-off for inclusion on BRW’s Rich 200 has fallen from $200 million to $150 million – there are 15 newcomers.
It’s an eclectic group. While there are a number of new members from the booming area of coal seam gas, there are debutants from the property sector, the retail industry, financial services and technology.
Here are some of the most interesting new members to Australia’s wealthiest club:
Paul Fudge, Chris Wallin, Troy Campbell and Jim Gorman
Former rag trader Paul Fudge shot to prominence earlier this year when he sold a single coal seam gas (CSG) tenement in Queensland to Origin Energy for a whopping $660 million, and it’s no surprise that he makes the biggest debut on this year’s list with a fortune of $752 million. He’s joined by a trio of fellow CSG gamblers who join the list for the first time.
Chris Wallin (who debuts with $595 million) retains a majority stake in the Sonoma Mine in Queensland through his private company, QCoal.
Troy Campbell ($215 million) is based in Toowoomba and owns an oil and gas services company called Easternwell Group. Its four drilling rigs are in hot demand from CSG explorers.
Jim Gorman ($210 million) is a former partner of coal industry veteran Ken Talbot. In 2007 he sold his 23.3% stake in a Queensland coal mine for an estimated $270 million.
The second biggest debut at $710 million was made from Scottish immigrant Richard Smith, who owns PFD Food Services, Australia’s second-largest food distributor, with annual revenue of around $1.1 billion.
Smith used to own the business in partnership with Melbourne’s Liberman family. In 1988, Smith took full control and built a national supply chain network capable of supplying cafes and restaurants with around 2,500 products in 48 hours. It’s one of those classic private businesses that operate in the background of industries such as food and hospitality, but Smith has clearly built such a dominant and lucrative position around a valuable niche.
Education has typically been dominated by government-owned institutions, but entrepreneurs such as Rod Jones of Navitas and Paul and Andrew Bassett of Seek have proved that there is plenty of money to be made for private operators. Nepalese-born entrepreneur Shesh Ghale can be added to that list. He joins the Rich 200 with a fortune of $208 million, thanks largely to his Melbourne Institute of Technology, which had 2,000 fee-paying students, mostly from overseas. Education is tipped to be a boom area for the Australian economy in the coming decades, so expect more entrepreneurs to emerge from this sector.
Alan Kohler deserves a bit of credit for unearthing the secretive hedge fund manager Phil Mathews, who was believed to have made $1 billion betting on the oil price in the middle of 2008. He joins the BRW list at $470 million – no doubt the rapid fall in the sharemarket and particularly the energy sector wiped out some of his spectacular gains.
Peter Hughes, wife Jane and son Sam are part of the resurgent group of rural property investors and farmers on this year’s list. He makes his debut with a fortune of $443 million. Hughes and former business partner Bill Scott bought eight cattle stations from Colonial Agricultural Fund in 2006 for $300 million and earlier this year Hughes bought Scott out of their partnership. It appears the bush is back as a great money-spinner.
Another great migrant story; Italian born, Adelaide-based entrepreneur Mick Dimauro started out running a delicatessen in the early 1970s, buying residential properties and small retail properties as his business grew. Eventually, he started buying entire shopping centres, including Adelaide’s Sefton Plaza and Parabanks Shopping Centre. He is now in the process of completing a two-stage, $100 million expansion of Parabanks. His fortune is valued at $210 million.
At the age of 32, Simon Clausen is the youngest debutant with a fortune of $180 million. He is the founder of computer security company PC Tools, which he sold to Symantec in August 2008 for a rumoured $300 million. Not bad for a former computer technician who started his business in the middle of the dot-com boom. James Packer’s private company invested in PC Tools in 2005.
Accountant Andrew Brice was one of the seed investors in online travel company Wotif, which is proving to be one of the best downturn-beaters on the Australian sharemarket – its share are actually up 6% in the last 12 months, against a 35% fall in the broader market. Brice retains a big shareholding and joins the list with $170 million.
Timing is everything and the Mitchell family, led by 38-year-old Nathan Mitchell, picked their moment perfectly when they sold their coal-drilling business to listed engineering firm AJ Lucas for $15 million in shares and $135 million in cash. They join the list with $224 million.