Every year Forbes publishes the list of the richest people in Australia. 2009 showed a drop in the number of billionaires (we’re down to 9) but despite the changes in the economy these entrepreneurs proved that fortunes can still be made. Almost everyone on the list started out with a small venture that eventually flourished with dedication and a mind-set to defy the odds against making it big. They are an inspiration to Australians everywhere with dreams of success to hold their course and just keep going.
#20 Maurice Alter (Married with 2 children, age: 84)
Who would not mind having a fortune worth $590 million at the age of 84? Mr. Alter landed on the shore in 1949 right out of Poland and hurried up to get a job, 2 jobs as a matter of fact. A bit later he bought a couple shops and a bank near Melbourne. Yes, that’s right — a bank! Currently his son, Sam runs his Pacific Shopping Centers and manages his portfolio of prime retail properties in the vicinity of Melbourne and Adelaide.
#19 Robert Oatley (Married with 3 children, age: 80)
This wealthy Oz tycoon likes things that give you a buzz. He started out on the path to fortune as a coffee farmer but really made himself known with the Rosemount Estates winery. In 2001 he sold off the entire kit and caboodle for cash and stock to Southcorp. He turned around in 2003 and flipped the stick to Foster’s as a means to buy Hamilton Island. He has taken the cup in the Hobart-to-Sydney race 4 consecutive years with his yacht, Wild Oats. He keeps himself occupied with exporting his name-brand wines to the U.S.
#18 Angela Bennet & Michael Wright (Married with 7 children, age: 64, married with 3 children, age: 71)
This sister and brother team was fortunate to have a father that discovered some tremendous iron ore deposits in Western Australia. Rio Tinto’s Hamersley mine provides them and other family members annual royalties. Wright’s primary concern is his Voyager Estate winery.
#17 John Van Lieshout (Married, 2 children, age: 63)
Rumor has it that as a teenager Mr. Van Lieshout left school to work at a job unloading bananas. After moving from his native Holland he eventually started up the Super A-Mart furniture chain which he sold in 2006. Currently he is in the market for Brisbane real estate.
#16 Len Buckeridge (Married with 6 children, age: 73)
Len Buckeridge is synonymous with BGC Group, a major home builder in Western Australia. Apparently economic downturns mean nothing to him; 2009 was a year of big projects including the construction of a $200 million private port.
#15 Carlo Salteri (married with 4 children, age: 88)
Salteri cofounded theTransfield Group in 1956 after moving from Italy to Oz. He took over defense operations when the company split in 1997. His son, Paul took over for him as chairman in 2007. He recently sold off several divisions to major world players such as Lockheed Martin and Air New Zealand.
#14 Ken Talbot (Married with 4 children, age: 58)
Talbot founded Macarthur Coal and later sold 80% for close to $600 million. He stirred up some scandalous talk when accused of making payments in secret to a Queensland politician. He denies the bad news.
#13 Gerry Harvey (Married with 4 children, age: 69)
Mr. Harvey started dropped out of agricultural college to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door. He later co-founded Harvey Norman, the electronics retailer. The CEO is his wife, Katie Page. He is a horse man, with a stake in the thoroughbred auction house, Magic Millions.
#12 Michael Hintze (Married with 4 children, age: 55)
He did time at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse First Boston before staring up the trading firm, Convertible and Quantitative Strategies with $200 million. The return on the flagship fund has been 11% annualized.
#11. Stanley Perron (Married with 3 children, age: 86)
Mr. Perron sold handkerchief boxes after dropping out of school and later tried to make a go as a plumber. He didn’t really make it big until being gifted with a Toyota franchise from a former boss. (Nice boss!) He established dealerships all over Western Australia and now invests in real estate.
#10 Lindsay Fox (Married with 5 children, age: 72)
Fox is a former pro in the Australian Football League and got started on his way to wealth by selling soft drinks from a truck. He founded the largest logistics company in Australia: Linfox. He enjoys classic cars — has 130 of them.
#9 Kerry Stokes (Divorced with 4 children, age: 68)
At last, billionaire! Stokes is the primary dealer of Caterpillar equipment in Australia. He adds to his fortune by his stake in media group, Seven Network. Lately he has been attempting to grab up Perth’s Western Australia Newspapers.
#8 Kerr Neilson (Married with 2 children, age: 59)
Originally from South Africa, Neilson set up Platinum Asset Management in 1993 with George Soros backing him. When the firm went public in 2007 he cashed out around $500 million. His next plan is to open a contemporary Chinese art museum.
#7 Gina Rinehart (Widowed, 4 children, age: 55)
Along with other family members she benefits from her late father’s mining assets: Rio Tinto’s Hamersley Basin Iron Ore Mine. (She had to fight her stepmother for it.)Rinehart also owns a direct stake in the family company Hancock Prospecting.
#6 Anthony Pratt (Single, 1 child, age: 49)
Pratt was at one time a McKinsey consultant and ran Visy Industries U.S. operations for 20 years. He is now co-chairs the packaging kingdom with his mother, owned in entirety by his family. He co-owns the global operations with his two sisters.
#5 Andrew Forrest (Married with 3 children, age: 47)
Forrest was Australia’s #1 richest person in 2008. Sadly he lost his position due to decreasing iron ore demand which affected shares of his Fortescue Metals Group. A Chinese steel group recently took ownership of part of the company. There was a bit of scandal around the deal which he denies.
#4 John Gandel (Married with 4 children, age: 74)
Gandel owns prime real estate — lots of it, including half of Melbourne’s Chadstone shopping mall and a stake in a trust that owns the other half. Rumor has it that his private home is the priciest in Melbourne.
#3 Harry Truguboff (Married with 2 children, age: 76)
Known affectionately as «High-Rise-Harry», he is Oz’s apartment building tycoon. He was born in China to Russian parents and started his career as a taxi driver. He now owns hundreds of flats in Sydney and North Shore.
#2 Frank Lowy (Married with 3 children, age: 78)
Lowy is another one of the country’s real estate moguls as well as the president of the Football Federation Australia. He is a Czech immigrant and founded the Westfield Group real estate company. The company’s stock took a fall earlier in 2009 but hey, he still has close to $3 billion and that’s not shabby.
#1 James Packer (Married with one child, age: 41)
Let’s hear it for the young guy! What has this dude not done? Packer is heir to his late father’s media group, Publishing & Broadcasting. He sold his cattle ranches for almost $300 million and has shares in Consolidated Media and gaming company, Crown. He also has a joint venture going with Hong Kong’s Lawrence Ho.