Australia’s Top 10 richest people in the construction and mining industries is a motley crew comprising of squabbling kids of lucky prospectors, some highfaluting CEO’s of mining companies in shiny suits, a yellow-machines guy, a yellow-billboards guy, a guy from The Gap who only owns one shirt and (most surprisingly) a concreter. Below we’ve grouped up and researched our colourful list of the best and the brightest in our industries – as measured by the fatness of their wallets - along with our wicked and entirely harmless commentary of what makes them unique (and stinking rich).
- Total Wealth in 2019: $13.81 billion
- In charge of: Hancock Prospecting
- Major Projects: Roy Hill, Hope Downs, Sirius Minerals
I actually live near one of Gina Rinehart’s (likely) hundreds of water-front investment properties and every time we drive past, I’ve taught my 4-year-old to scream “GIIIINNNNAAAAA” in a hoity-toity voice. I don’t know why that makes me laugh, it just does. But she’s really laughing at me because she could buy and sell me about 13.8 billion times over and doesn’t care that my kid and I make jokes about her mansions.
Her life has been subject to a rather inglorious television mini-series, and many many thousands of works, books and other unauthorised biographies, painting her in various lights ranging from mega-maven to cruel dictator, to lost soul, to daddy’s girl, to evil architect – but indeed – she’s just really really smart, really commercial and incredibly successful, and anyone calling her something else is just a jealous idiot. I love the fact that the grand-poo-bar of Australia’s mining industry is a woman. GO GINA!
2. Andrew Forrest
- Total Wealth in 2019: $7.99 billion
- In charge of: A bunch of foundations. Chairman of Fortescue Metals.
- Major Projects: Eliwana Project, Iron Bridge, Herb Elliot Port, Solomon Hub
Twiggy, as he’s lovingly known to other super-rich people (because I would NEVER dare call him that to his face if we ever met) is generally regarded as an all-round good bloke, and since building Fortescue Metals up to the monolith it is today, has pledged the majority of his wealth to charity. He spends most of his time implementing work in his many foundations and social programs, including most notably – his real and actioned programs to ensure that indigenous communities near his projects benefit from project investment.
In 2018, he was paid an eye-watering $360 million in dividends from Fortescue off the back of positive commodity prices and is said to be due for another massive pay-day in 2019. The mind boggles at how to spend that kind of money, but I reckon I could if I gave it enough thought. Interestingly – $360mil is about $15mil less than Taylor Swift earned last year, just to put that in a pop-culture context.
3. Ivan Glasenberg
- Total Wealth in 2019: $7.17 billion
- In charge of: Glencore’s CEO, but just announced his imminent retirement. Board of Minara Resources
- Major Projects: 24 mines in Australia, most notably Rolleston, Hunter Valley, Ravensworth, Hail Creek
Ivan Glasenberg is a citizen of the world. No, seriously – he holds three citizenships – South Africa, Australia and Switzerland (the Swiss citizenship is not surprising considering how much money he would need to store in international tax havens, for example). Having so many passports must get confusing at the Smart-Gate in international airports (not that he would fly commercial). Ivan joined Glencore in 1984, worked his way up the chain, and now owns 8.4% of the company, which is a MASSIVE stake for someone who isn’t a founder. He is a competitive race walker, and lives in a tiny village in Switzerland, but spent a big portion of his career based in Australia and overseeing Glencore’s coal operations (which, interestingly, he’s now talking down in a big way and committing to limiting Glencore’s coal operations now and in the future).
When Glencore floated on the London stock exchange, he had to pay the village taxes in order of $360mil which meant that the whole Swiss village got a reduced local tax rate of 7%. Even after that people in the village complained (because they didn’t like Glencore). This story goes no way towards debunking the rumour that Swiss people are uptight and grumpy. Mr Glasenberg is welcome in my village, for tax purposes, every day of the week...
4. Kerry & Ryan Stokes
- Total Wealth in 2019: $5.69 Billion
- In Charge of: Chairman & CEO of Seven Group Holdings, Seven West Media
- Major Projects: Coates Hire, Westrac, Beach Energy, Breaker Resources
It's great to see someone in the thick of plant and equipment in Australia in the top 10 richest people in Australia! Mr & Mr Stokes, as I reverently refer to them, are shareholders of iSeekplant by way of their industrial services investment vehicle, Seven Group Holdings, and for their investment, I will always be eternally grateful. Since Ryan Stokes became CEO in 2015, SGH has spearheaded some massive acquisitions in industrial, mining and resources spaces – including the remaining 51% of Coates Hire, Beach Energy (just to name the big ones) and he’s overseen a $5 billion addition to the value of SGH on the ASX. It’s a good time to be in yellow machines (as I’ve always said).
5. Clive Palmer
- Total Wealth in 2019: $4.09 Billion
- In Charge of: Owner, Mineralogy and visually offensive Yellow Billboards on every highway
- Major Projects: Sino Mine, Coolum (Dinosaur) Resort, (Now Defunct) Queensland Nickel
The $50 million Clive spent unsuccessfully seeking to obtain 1 unit of senate seat in the recent federal election is just the change rattling around in his Roll Royce – because between $350m - $400m of royalties flow every year from Chinese owned CITIC who operates the Sino mine in the Pilbara. But they don’t cut this cheque cheerfully, the royalties coming from this project’s exploration have been the subject of 10 years of litigation including Palmer suing everyone he’s ever met, the WA and Federal Australian government, everyone in China and now he’s moved the fight to New Zealand.
He’s still evading regulators attempts to untangle the disaster at Queensland Nickel, and he’s been sledged with ASIC’s recent criminal charges over dealings at his Dinosaur / Titanic resort in Coolum. And if that isn’t a spicy or fun enough, there is his hilarious, and hilariously ineffective tilt at the prime-ministership, twice, in a poor-mans Donald Trump style “Make Australia Great Again” campaign (to which Australia collectively politely declined), that will now go down in history as the worst marketing campaign ever conceived of, and paid for (I’m sure all the TV stations and outdoor advertising companies will disagree with me). Clive Palmer is ranked 15 on Australia’s rich list, but he’s ranked number #1 in my heart of all the people in Australia’s social discourse that I love to give a tickle-up to on this blog. So much so, he has his own ‘category’ on this blog.
6. Angela Bennett
- Total Wealth in 2019: $2.62 billion
- In Charge of: Avoiding the media, suing Gina.
- Major Projects: Hamersley Iron, Rhodes Ridge Iron Ore, Wright Prospecting
Seriously, suing Gina Rinehart has pretty much been a full-time job for Angela Bennett and indeed a very fruitful one. It’s a strange and tense partnership she’s had with the other queen of mining – in that they hold shares in many projects and businesses together, but certainly don’t seem to be able to get along. In 2010, she got a cool billion dollars from legally forcing Gina to give up 25% of the Rhodes Ridges iron ore mine in Newman. In 2012, she sued Rinehart to obtain 50% of a handful of tenements of the Hope Downs Mine (a big project for Hancock Prospecting). She has seven kids (another full-time job) and a big boat. Other than that, she’s known for being ruthlessly private and reclusive.
7. Alexandra Burt & Leonie Baldock
- Total Wealth in 2019: $2.38 billion
- In Charge of: Board of Wright Prospecting
- Major Projects: Mt Bruce, Hamersley Iron, Rhodes Ridge Iron Ore
Wright Prospecting is so secretive it doesn’t even have a website (so I instructed one of my sales team to find Alex Burt’s number off LinkedIn and ask if we can help build her a SEO optimised specialist website in mining). The nieces of Aunty Angela above – these ladies have spent most of their adult life in litigation, along with their Aunt, against Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting – fighting for what is legally theirs in trust from their grandfather, the late Peter Wright – Lang Hancock’s long-time (and eventually estranged) business partner. So far, there have been 3 major legal challenges, and all awarded in favour of Wright’s decedents – and indeed costing Gina Rinehart billions in the process. They, along with Hancock Prospecting, own royalty and share rights to the major projects listed above, and as such – shareholders meetings would be decidedly frosty (love to be a fly on the wall there to watch the side-eye being chucked around with reckless abandon). If only all the female powerhouses of mining in Australia could get along…
8. Sam (pictured) & Andrew Buckeridge
- Total Wealth in 2019: $1.88 billion
- In Charge of: BGC Contracting
- Major Projects: Boggabri Coal, Ramone Gold, Koolyanobbing, Northlink WA, Woolgoolga to Ballina, Roy Hill, Mt Pleasant Rail
BGC was a small property and building company when started by Len Buckeridge – but has now grown to dwarf all locally owned Australian contractors as one of the largest horizontally integrated construction and mining companies in the country. Len died in 2014, and family members have been squabbling about what to do with the monolithic BGC ever since. It was offered for sale in 2015, but abandoned when nobody met their asking price of $2.5 billion. But all this infighting hasn’t slowed the success of the business – it continues to win, and execute some of the more well-known major projects in our industry and very few in the industry have a bad word to say about the running of BGC under the Buckeridge brothers. Let’s hope they sort out their extended family differences so BGC can continue its rise, or at least so family Christmases aren’t so awkward.
9. Chris Wallin
- Total Wealth in 2019: $1.88 billion
- In Charge of: QCoal
- Major Projects: Byerwen Mine, Sonoma Mine, Cows Mine, Jax Mine, Drake Mine
In virtually every photo on the internet of Chris Wallin he’s wearing the same shirt – it’s a blue and white check pattern with short sleeves – and even though most of the pictures are headshots, the shirt is almost definitely tucked into a pair of beige shorts with long socks (like my high school English teacher). This leads me to think one of two things: 1) he’s one of those billionaires who just doesn’t act like one and still buys his 5 pairs of white jocks from Target every year or 2) his blue check shirt is to him what the black skivvy was to Steve Jobs – and this is a tell-tale sign of a savant. He just gives off a vibe that he accidentally struck gold (or, in his particular case, a shitload of coking coal) and refuses to embrace the trappings of being the 42nd richest person in Australia. He lives in The Gap in Brisbane, went to Brisbane State High and I’m tipping he drives a 10-year-old Hilux. What a legend, I love guys like that.
10. Raymond Barro
- Total Wealth in 2019: $1.65 billion
- In Charge of: Barro Group, 43% of Adelaide Brighton
- Major Projects: Mt Cotton Quarry & Concrete, supplier of consumables and inputs – concrete, quarry, aggregates
It's great to see a concreter get this far up Australia’s social stratosphere given in our experience, its an industry with the highest per-capita employment rates of ex-cons. There now wouldn’t be a single slab of concrete or road in Victoria that didn’t comprise of products sold by the Barro Group or its partly owned competitor, Adelaide Brighton. The family grew the business into the (still privately owned) powerhouse it is today, and ultimately purchased a 43% stake of Adelaide Brighton, a competitor and the largest supplier of concrete products in Australia. They’ve been trying to work on a merger/takeover of the two massive businesses for years, but can’t reach an agreement. Raymond Barro was recently voted as the chair of Adelaide Brighton, so let the games begin. We’ll grab the popcorn and watch the ‘concrete wars’ with keen interest.