The continent of Australia is unique and something of an oddity in a number of ways. The continent includes mainland Australia and numerous other smaller states including New Guinea and Tasmania. It’s at once the world’s smallest continents and one of the world’s biggest countries, and it’s so large and isolated it’s often known as ‘the island continent’. The country was mainly inhabited by an indigenous people prior its discovery by the Dutch in the year 1606. In the year 1770, the British began to colonize the island, initially as a penal colony – which illuminates the slightly British twang to the modern Australian accent.
Australia has a remarkably strong and independent economy, and was ranked as the second wealthiest country in the world in 2013 (losing out on the top spot to Switzerland). Australia is recognized by the UN as being one of the most developed countries in the world, with a low rate of poverty and a very high GDP per capita. Impressively, the country’s strong economy was essentially unaffected by the global economic crisis, but with their independence comes a reliance on exporting and with major trade partners in recession Australia felt some ripple effects.
Australia has a richly diverse economy, benefiting from everything from tourism and education to mining and agriculture. The billionaires in Australia are equally diverse, earning their fortunes through industrialism as well as mining and even tourism and entertainment. The worldwide perception of Australia is generally a variation on the ‘sun, sea and sand’ trope, with the idea of a financial juggernaut not foremost in anyone’s minds. But keeping in mind the country’s impressive stats and after looking at this list of the wealthiest people ‘Down Under’, perhaps you’ll reassess your preconceptions.
Many of you will no doubt be surprised not to see anyone from the wealthy Australian Pratt family make the list. This is because the entire family has claim to the fortune so no one individual had enough clout to crack the top 10. Rupert Murdoch also missed the list, because he’s now an American citizen.
#10 David Hains: net worth $2.3 billion
David Hains owns Portland House Group, among Australia’s largest hedge funds. The company is based in Hains’ hometown of Melbourne and the day to day running of the company has been taken over by the sons of this 82 year old self-made billionaire. The company trades equities, currencies and bonds focused on the U.S. markets. Hains is also well-known for rebuilding companies like Wheeling-Pittsburgh – a major U.S. steel plant. Hains is also a horse breeder and racer, and a golfer; he’s enjoying his wealth and indulging in hobbies during a well-earned retirement.
#9 Paul Ramsay, net worth: $2.5 billion
Paul Ramsay is another self-made billionaire whose net worth increased an astounding 40% when shares of his company Ramsay Health Care soared in value in 2012. The company is known for the 116 hospitals and medical facilities it owns and manages across Australia, the U.K. Indonesia, and even France. Ramsey has one of those inspiring and unique success stories, going from a college dropout to overseeing a medical empire. Ramsey started his first private hospital in 1964, and today his company treats 1 million patients every day and employs 30,000 staff members. He holds major shares in regional Australian television company, Prime Media, too, and 77 years old his net worth continues to increase year on year.
#8 Kerr Neilson, net worth: $2.7 Billion
This 64 year old self-made billionaire bought his first stock at the tender age of 13. Kerr Neilson was born in South Africa and moved to Australia when he was 34. Ten years later, he founded Platinum Asset Management, and now owns 57% of the company after partially cashing out in 2007 just before the global economic collapse. Neilson earned his ‘guru’ investor status in the 1980s at BT Australia. His career is marked by canny moves including short selling prior to the 1987 crash and then picking the top stocks of the Japanese bull market in the late 1980s.
#7 John Gandel, net worth: $3.5 Billion
The child of Polish immigrants, Gandel has an inheritance to thank for a portion of his wealth. He built on this fortune, though, by purchasing a number shopping malls from Myer department stores in the 1980s. Gandel paid $37 million for the stores, an investment that’s been hailed as possibly one of the most profitable moves in Australia’s economic history. Gandel owns half of Australia’s largest shopping center, Chadstone. Like all good billionaires, he’s involved in philanthropy too; Gandel donates to the arts, health care and education.
#6 Harry Triguboff, net worth: $4.5 Billion
Harry Triguboff, of Russian heritage, saw the potential of investing in apartment buildings when most Australians were betting on the value of suburban blocks. Over the past 50 years, ‘High Rise Harry’ put up an amazing 55,000 apartments. He certainly earned the nickname “High Rise Harry.” Trigboff’s company, Meriton, capitalized on a sales downturn by buying cheap development sites in Sydney and on the Gold Coast, and using the sites to develop the serviced-apartments industry.
#5 Frank Lowy $5.3 billion
This 83 year old founded Westfield, one of the largest retail property groups on Earth. The company owns 104 shopping centers in Australia, in the U.K. and in New Zealand. In September, Lowy experienced a $1 billion increase in wealth when his Westfield Stratford city opened in close proximity to the site of the London Olympics. His two sons are now the joint CEOs after Lowy stepped down in 2011, having run the company for 5 decades.
#4 Andrew Forrest, net worth: $5.7 Billion
52 year old Forrest, of Fortescue metals, is another example of the Australian entrepreneurial spirit. Though the fall in iron prices cut Forrest’s net worth by nearly $500 million, the onetime stockbroker still earns a very respectable in the iron mining industry, with China as a major importer of the natural resource. Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest founded Fortescue Metals Group in 2003 and he once held the title of Australia’s richest man. Forrest is not only famous for his wealth; he’s known for encouraging job creation for Australia’s Aboriginal community.
#3 James Packer, net worth: $6 billion
James Packer inherited a $5 billion business when his billionaire father Kerry Packer passed away in 2005. The 46 year old essentially sold his family out of the media sector in 2012 when he sold Consolidated Media Holdings to Newscorp for $1 billion. He now focuses his managerial energy on running gaming company Crown Ltd. – a company which owns several casinos in Australia.
#2 Ivan Glasenburg, net worth: $6.7 Billion
This 56 year old commodities trader is yet another self-made billionaire on our list. Glasenberg is the CEO for mining and trading juggernaut Glencore International, and another South African native who migrated to Australia to earn his fortune. Glasenburg fortuned is currently coordinating the takeover of mining giant Xstrata. The deal hasn’t been finalized yet but when it does, this billionaire may steal the #1 spot on Australia’s rich list.
#1 Georgina Rinehart, net worth: $17 billion
This 59 year old business woman is the only female to make the list, but she does it with a splash – she has nearly 3 times the wealth of her nearest competitor. Her coal and iron ore mining projects already bring her nearly $1 billion a year and she’s currently the 5th wealthiest woman in the world. Rinehart owns huge shares of Fairfax media and Channel 10, two large media companies in Australia. Rinehart caused controversy in the past when she published a book calling for a $2 per day wage for workers, comparable to that of African workers. She’s also grabbed media attention by cutting three of her four children out of the family trust, resulting in a high-profile ongoing legal battle.
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