RICH PICKINGS: How to be a Rich Lister

With the total wealth of BRW's Rich 200 members rising by 19 per cent this year, we take a look at what Australia's top earners are doing right.

Well, that didn’t last long, did it? Just 12 months after the entrepreneurs on the BRW Rich 200 list were hit hard by the downturn, the total wealth of the 2010 members has risen 19 per cent, or $22 million, to $136 billion.

The rich are officially back on track.

While much of this increase can be attributed to some stunning bounce-backs in the mining sector – the fortunes of Gina Rinehart, Andrew Forrest and Chris Wallin jumped by a staggering $5.1 billion alone – a close inspection of the list reveals some clear money-making trends that entrepreneurs and investors should investigate.

Let’s have a look at 10 ways the rich got richer in 2010:

Head outside Australia

The biggest debut on the list came from little-known Chinese-born property entrepreneur Chau Chak Wing, who joins the club with a staggering $920 million thanks to his extensive property holdings in Southern China and Australia (he also owns a Chinese language newspaper here, called the New Express Daily). The trend towards Rich 200 members holding offshore interests has accelerated in recent years (particularly with the group of money-men based in London’s City district) as markets have become more globalised. The size of markets such as China makes them too important ignore, so expect to see more entrepreneurs target foreign lands.

Dominate a market

It’s taken the boys from recruitment company Seek – Paul and Andrew Bassat – a little while to make the Rich 200, but their arrival this year, with a joint fortune of $248 million, is reward for building a real industry giant. When the Bassats started Seek in 1997 they had plenty of competition, not least of which came from traditional newspaper classifieds. But over the next decade Seek became the sector’s dominant player and a darling of the sharemarket. There are plenty of players on the rich list who really dominate their sectors, including Anthony Pratt, Lindsay Fox and Frank Lowy, and their experience highlights the value of building a big share of a market. Even if you can’t make a sector your own, try to find a niche where you can be top dog.

Go bush

The return of the barons of the bush was a trend noticeable on last year’s Rich 200 and this has continued again this year. Susan Marchant, owner of Carrington Farms (which is now on the sale block in one of Australia’s biggest ever rural tenders) joins the list with $280 million. Returning to the list is Michael Gordon, who made his fortune through the Peppercorn Management Group childcare empire, and has since invested in sheep and cattle properties. Good rains and on-going food security concerns should underwrite these rural fortunes into the future.

Get into mining

Four of the 13 new names on the Rich 200 come from the resources sector, with the most notable being that of Jospeh Gutnick, who returns to the list after more than a decade with a fortune of $300 million. While it has taken Gutnick a long time to recover from the 2001 collapse of his nickel venture Centaur Mining & Exploration, his return does show that you don't need to be a big mine owner to get rich from resources. Gutnick owns stakes in a string of smaller mining companies that are exploring for everything from diamonds and gold, to uranium and phosphate. Many of Gutnick’s stakes were purchased when the GFC sent mining valuations tumbling, which shows that shrewd bargain hunting is a legitimate get-rich strategy.

Stick with property

No matter how the Australian economy changes, the make-up of the Rich 200 remains dominated by the property sector. There were 59 members of the list from this sector in 2010, compared with 25 from the resources sector and 23 from the investment sector. While property was hit hard by the GFC, it remains one of the best ways to get on the rich list, mainly due to the relatively low barriers to entry and, in recent years, strong increases in valuations.

Do the basics

Feeding and clothing the masses is an old-school way to get rich, but it is working for two debutants: Nigel Austin, who owns the Cotton On chain; and Roy Manassen, part owner of food distribution business Manassen Foods. Austin, who is valued at $238 million, has grown his business from one store in the Victorian regional city of Geelong to a 500 store national chain by focussing on affordable youth fashion. Manassen, who is valued at $224 million, sold the bulk of his business to private equity in 2006, but has seen the chain double its revenue in the last 12 months to $500 million. It just goes to show, the simple things in life are often the best.

Ride the tech wave

Telecommunications and internet services have quickly become a staple of Australian households and it is this trend that David Teoh, head of internet service provider TPG, has managed to harness. Teoh, who joins the list with a fortune of $615 million, shared with wife Vicky, has grown TPG aggressively in the last three years and is now enjoying the dividends – the company’s share price has risen from 37c to around $2.16. With the dotcom bust now a decade behind us, we are likely to see more tech stars emerge in the coming years.

Get elected

This year BRW has taken a special look at the wealth of Australia’s Federal MPs, and while Malcolm Turnbull is the only one to make the proper Rich 200 (with a $186 million fortune) there is one former pollie who has done very well. Geoff Prosser, a former minster in John Howard’s government in 1996, joins the list, also with $186 million.

Join the right team

The Rich 200 includes 17 joint listings, including two new partnerships: Seek’s Paul and Andrew Bassat and Josef and Sami El-Raghy. Another new inclusion is John Higgins, who joins the list with $310 million and is the long-time business partner and co-investor with QC and entrepreneur Allan Myers. Hitching your wagon to the right business partner is a great way to rise to the top. Having two people doubles the skills, experiences, networks and management capabilities in a business and, while you will have to share the spoils, you also get to share the hard work.

Marry well

Five of the joint listings on the Rich 200 are married couples, including a new one: David and Vicky Teoh, who own a large chunk of internet service provider TPG. The emergence of more husband and wife teams is great to see, as it highlights the key role that spouses play in business partnerships. Picking the right 'life partner' isn’t exactly easy but, like finding the right business partner, it certainly can be lucrative.

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