Disney deal helps Murdochs climb up the 2019 AFR Rich List

After a seven-year absence, Lachlan Murdoch has returned to the 2019 AFR Rich List, landing in 18th position thanks to the sale of 21st Century Fox to The Walt Disney Company. The sale, which closed in March, netted Rupert Murdoch an estimated US$4bn and the Murdoch children US$2bn each.

Lachlan Murdoch first appeared on the Rich List in 2011, but the slipping price of Ten saw him fall off the ranking. Murdoch’s investment in Nova Entertainment would have seen him return to the list in 2019, but the Disney sale boosted his income significantly, landing him at a wealth of $3.62bn.

The Disney sale also saw Murdoch’s daughter Prudence MacLeod land on the list for the first time, in 22nd place with $3.1bn.

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch is best known for his ownership of News Corp and Fox News. Inside those his ownership extends to Harper Collins and The Wall Street Journal, and included 21st Century Fox until the recent Disney sale.

News Corp reported a global revenue increase in the last quarter, but is struggling in Australia with its ownership of Foxtel which saw its revenues slip 8% in the first half of the 2019 financial year.

The Rich List has tracked Australia’s wealthiest people since its inception in 1983, when it was published by BRW. The first list comprised of 100 people, but it was expanded the following year to 200. The second list had a net wealth of $7bn, a figure which now exceeds $300bn.

“With more billionaires than ever before, more technologists and the ascension of the Murdoch family, the 37th annual Financial Review Rich List is a fascinating insight into the wealth of Australia, with some fascinating trends starting to take shape,” Rich List editor Michael Bailey said.

Overall, the list was topped by Visy Australia owner Anthony Pratt. The business grew earnings 8% to $680m thanks to a lower Australian dollar and China’s recycling ban. Pratt and family have a wealth of $15.57bn.

“The impact of US President Donald Trump can be felt, causing division at the top of the Rich List. His slashing of the corporate tax rate and granting of instant write-offs for business investment has bolstered the bottom line of Anthony Pratt,” said Bailey.

The highest placing media personality on the list was Seven West Media’s Kerry Stokes, whose wealth of $5.69bn put him in 11th position, a jump from 13th last year. Media accounts for only 20% of Stokes’ wealth, and he also has interests in property and mining.

James Packer dropped slightly from 10th position in 2018 to 13th this year, holding a wealth of $4.94bn. That has dipped from $5.25bn in 2018. It’s been a tumultuous 2019 for Packer, who is seeking to exit the public eye, and sold half his stake in Crown Resorts this morning for $1.8bn.

WIN Corporation owner Bruce Gordon fell to 134th place from 112 in 2018, with a wealth of $728m. Gordon sold down his stake in regional network Prime Media Group earlier this week.

The co-owner of Macquarie Media, John Singleton, jumped from 161st place to 145th, holding $670m. In 1968, Singleton founded Singleton, Palmer and Strauss, McAllan – the advertising firm which would later become STW Communications.

Singleton has a 32% share in Macquarie Media and co-owns Manboom, which made $60m in 2018 selling 17 Sydney Airport billboards. Since the Fairfax/Nine merger in 2018, Singleton has been rumoured to be fielding offers to sell his stake in Macquarie Media, but currently retains it. Prior to the merger, Fairfax Media had a 54.5% stake in the company.

The 2019 AFR Rich List also included several other media personalities, including Joy Chambers-Grundy, wife of the late television pioneer Reg Grundy, who landed at 104 with a wealth of $871m. Gretal Packer, the older sister of James, was sitting at 80 this year, down from 61 in 2018, with a wealth of $1.16bn. Packer remains heavily involved in the arts, sitting on the board of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Sydney Theatre Company.

Philanthropist Judith Neilson, who announced $100m of funding for The Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism & Ideas which aims to encourage independent quality journalism by providing education and grants in November, sat at 65, down from 36 in 2018, with a wealth of $1.35bn.

Neilson is the ex-wife of Platinum Asset Management founder Kerr Neilson.

The full list can be viewed here.


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