RICH PICKINGS: Prodigal sums

Australia's richest offspring in the UK give the Poms a run for their money – sadly, like British entrepreneurs, they have also lost plenty.

The list of the 1,000 richest people in Britain, released last week by The Sunday Times, includes no less than 14 entrepreneurs with connections to Australia, including eight who have appeared on BRW’s Rich 200.

The group includes a number of Australian-born hedge fund managers and financial whiz kids who become high-flyers in London’s ultra-competitive City district, including Michael Hintze, Greg Coffey and Hilton Nathanson.

The Sunday Times also appears to have unearthed a candidate for future Australian rich lists in fund manger Lee Robinsons, who appears on the British list with a fortune of $142 million.

But Robinson’s impressive debut aside, it has been a tough 12 months for this group, with the value of their total wealth plunging $450 million or 19 per cent as the global financial crisis ripped through their fortunes.

Still, that’s not as bad as the overall list. Total wealth crashed $316 billion or 37 per cent, with the number of billionaires on the list crashing from 75 to 43.

Let’s take a look at the main Australian names on the list:

Michael Hintze – $429 million

The wealthiest Australian on the list is Michael Hintze, owner of hedge fund manager CQS. While the former army officer’s fund did relatively well in the last year, Hintze has been unable to escape the market carnage. The Sunday Times reduced his valuation by $82 million, accounting for charitable contributions.

Greg Coffey – $408 million

Coffey, 38, is one of the stars of the City and was one of the few members of the British rich list to see his fortune increase, with a $163 million jump. Still, Coffey has forfeited a bit of cash over the last few years.  In April 2008, he announced that he wanted to leave hedge fund manager GLG and strike out on his own – forfeiting, according to the Times, a £326 million golden handcuff clause. But in November last year, he surprised the City by joining another hedge fund, Moore Capital. The Times says he was earning between $100 million and $150 million a year. 

Bill Paterson – $367 million

Scottish-born engineer Bill Paterson is a co-founder of WorleyParsons. While he now runs his own engineering consultancy in Sydney, he remains a major shareholder in Worley. But the collapse in the resources sector has not been kind to the company and Paterson’s fortune is down $135 million.

Barry and Robin Gibb – $224 million

The remaining Bee Gees own property on both sides of the Atlantic and have a tour of Europe scheduled for this summer. The Sunday Times has cut their valuation by $20 million.

David Wieland – $214 million

David Weiland and his business partner David Goldberger made their original fortune from petrol stations, first with the Solo chain and later with the Liberty chain. But property and retail are now their main interests. They own the Direct Factory Outlet chain and were involved in the $750 million South Wharf development in Melbourne’s Southbank precinct.  The Sunday Times claims Wieland "emigrated to Britain four decades ago”. His fortune fell by $95 million.

Hilton Nathanson – $183 million

Here is another young gun fund manager. Hilton Nathanson, 39, was the founder of Marble Bar Asset Management, but sold his stake in 2007 to a Swiss bank for about $245 million. The Sunday Times says charitable donations helped cut his wealth by $61 million.

Mark Creasy – $173 million

British-born mining entrepreneur Mark Creasy has had a poor year, with his fortune down a massive $102 million as a result of the commodities crash.

Robert de Crespigny – $130 million

Mining entrepreneur Robert de Crespigny left Australia to live in London in 2005 and has invested in a number of mining resources ventures, including Mineral Securities Limited (formerly Scarborough Minerals). The end of the mining boom has shaved $60 million off his fortune.

Lee Robinson – $142 million

Lee Robinson is hardly a well known name in Australia, but the 39-year-old is another leading City player. Last year, investment banking giant Goldman Sachs took a 20 per cent stake in Robinson’s fund manager Trafalgar Asset Managers. That valued Robinson’s stake at around $128 million.

Richard Farleigh – $102 million

Professional business angel Richard Farleigh, who was born in Australia but lives in Britain, is well known in the UK for his appearances on the Dragons’ Den, a TV program on which a panel of investors berates would-be entrepreneurs. The Sunday Times says Farleigh’s wealth is steady in the last 12 months.

Seumas Dawes – $85 million

Readers may remember an earlier Rich Pickings article on Mark Coombs, the fund manager who led a buyout of ANZ’s London emerging markets business back in 1999 for a bargain price. Coombs renamed the company Ashmore Group, turned it around and floated it in October 2006; a year later it was worth almost $4 billion. Dawes, aged 52, is a shareholder and executive with Ashmore. Unfortunately, the company’s market capitalisation has plunged 55 per cent since its peak and Dawes’ fortune has taken a $57 million hit.

Kylie Minogue – $70 million

Australia’s pop princess has seen the value of her fortune fall by about $10 million in the last 12 months, despite a big tour in Australia last year.

Malcolm Freake – $70 million

Australian-born Malcolm Freake sold his insurance services business Huon Corporation to Innovation Group in 2001, netting Freake more than $80 million. According to the Sunday Times, Freake now spends a lot of time working with his sporting charity for children, the Bluearth Foundation. Freake’s fortune is down $20 million. 


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