Members of the BRW Rich 200 list consistently report that their indescribable wealth is a by-product of their activities in business and investment. By their own account, they are not motivated by wealth. Nevertheless, wealth finds them, and in many cases, begets more wealth.
What kind of leaders do the super-wealthy make, and what kind of leadership makes them super wealthy?
Wealth: 2012 $29 billion*
Style: Lean and mean
Now estimated to be the richest woman in the world as a result of more than doubling her fortune in the past 12 months, Gina Rinehart’s leadership style might best be summed up as lean and mean.
The executive team at Hancock Prospecting is very lean considering the size of the operation. As its chair, Rinehart relies on a four man team of the company’s two biggest coal mines: executive director, Tad Watroba; chief financial officer and company secretary in one, Jay Newby; general counsel, Terry Walsh; and Paul Mulder, managing director.
Rinehart’s fierce protection of her fortune through the courts – including her sustained battles with family members – would earn the epithet “mean”, at least from the broader community. Her propensity for viscous and prolonged legal battles gained notoriety when she fought her father’s second wife, Rose Porteous, in a five year slanging match against her claim on her late husband’s estate. The matter was settled out of court in 2003.
Mid-fight with Porteous, Rinehart took on the biggest company in Australia, the miner BHP (now BHP Billiton), suing them for $200 million as she struggled to sort out her father’s estate.
Rinehart’s pièce de résistance has to be her current battle with three of her four children for control of a trust that holds about 25% of Hancock Prospecting.
So great is Rinehart’s recourse to the courts, word on the ground in Perth is that no lawyer can work for her; they are all conflicted. To continue her legal battles, Rinehart has to import lawyers from the east.
Wealth: $245 million
Style: Inclusive and generous
In stark contrast with Rinehart, Ken Grenda’s leadership style is inclusive and generous in the extreme.
Grenda inherited a bus company – both driving and making buses – started by his father 66 years ago. He hit the headlines last year after distributing $20 million, part of the proceeds from the sale of his family’s three companies. He pointed out at the time that the company’s success was due to the contribution of his staff.
Grenda is no longer leader of the family companies, although he retains minority share in one of them and is still involved to some extent, but his long rein at the helm was characterised by a down-to-earth, collegial style. He started as a bus driver, and was always called by his first name.
Unlike Rinehart, Grenda also distributed the proceeds from the sale throughout his family immediately, telling BRW: “… you don’t want to do a Gina Rinehart and the kids inherit when they are 80”.