AFR Rich List 2020 – the COVID edition

The annual Australian Financial Review Rich List has been released in what can only be described as a year of two halves. While iron ore owners continue to dominate the top echelons of the list, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit many rich listers, while also contributing to some new billionaires.

The 2020 Rich List has seen Australia’s 200 richest increase their collective wealth by 24%, to $424bn. Australia now has a record 104 billionaires, and the cut-off to make the Rich List sits at an all-time high of $540m.

As Chinese demand for iron ore surges 12 Rich Listers with direct exposure to Western Australia’s mines more than doubled their wealth to nearly $80bn collectively. The iron ore frenzy saw mining magnate Gina Rinehart top the Rich List with a record $28.89bn – up 109% since last year’s list. Andrew Forrest – Australia’s next Rich Lister – was at one stage adding $500m per week to his fortune, seeing his wealth go from $7.99bn last year to $23bn this year.

The Rich List, which has been published since 1983, offers insight into which industries have suffered through the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, and those that have flourished.

The acceleration towards e-commerce due to COVID-19 has helped e-tailers such as Ruslan Kogan, who re-enters the Rich List with a net wealth of $575m, as well as traditional retailers such as Gerry Harvey, whose wealth went up 35%, to $2.57bn.

Stock market interest in buy now, pay later businesses such as Afterpay has resulted in co-founder Nick Molnar becoming Australia’s youngest billionaire ranked 50th on the list (up 283%, now worth $1.86bn).

For those in media and advertising, it’s been a year of mixed outcomes. Top on the list is Kerry Stokes of Seven West Media at number 10, with a fortune of $6.26bn up from $5.69bn last year, mostly due to his stake in Saracen Minerals, which has benefited out of the rising gold prices.

Media man Stokes came in at number 10 on the Financial Review Rich List 2020

James and Gretel Packer sit respectively at 13 and 56 on the list with a combined fortune of
$6.46bn. While James Packer has been facing a damaging inquiry into Crown Resorts, of which he owns 36%, Gretel has been amassing wealth via her stake in US real estate portal Zillow. Its share price has doubled since the 2019 Rich List as more Americans peruse property online and rethink their options in a work-from-home world. Zillow’s zeitgeist-capturing performance more than outweighed Crown Resorts’ decline.

Fellow media moguls the Murdochs also featured on the list. Lachlan Murdoch, chief executive of Fox Corp, comes in at 22 with $3.76bn, including $200m from his interest in Nova radio. Prudence MacLeod, the eldest daughter of Rupert Murdoch came in at number 22 just behind her brother, with a fortune of $2.24bn down from $3.1bn last year.

Further down the list at number 65, Alex Waislitz, co-owner of Australian Community Media (ACM), which among other publications owns the Canberra Times, saw his wealth drop slightly to $1.49bn.

Philanthropist and Platinum Asset Management major shareholder Judith Neilson saw her wealth increase to $1.44bn up from $1.35bn last year, taking her to 69 on the list. She established The Judith Neilson Institute in 2018 to support quality journalism and storytelling around the world.

Alan Rydge, whose Event Hospitality and Entertainment business operates Event Cinemas, has seen his wealth reduced to $1.3bn, down 17.8%, due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Rydge, who came in at 80, is also chairman of ASX-listed Carlton Investments.

Nine (publisher of the Rich List) saw its largest shareholder and WIN Corporation owner Bruce Gordon increase his wealth to $892m, taking him to 111 on the list. Gordon last year reached a settlement with law firm Atanaskovic Hartnell after one of its solicitors, Brody Clarke, stole $10m from him.

Meanwhile adman John Singleton upped his ranking slightly to 142 from 145, with his $728m. He sold his stake in Macquarie Media to Nine Entertainment last year for approximately $80m.

You can see the full list here.


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