The rich getting richer: A year of profit for Australia’s wealthiest families

The Pratt, Shahin and Perich families starred in BRW's Rich List, all recording staggering increases to their wealth.

As it does almost every year, the top of the 2014 BRW Rich List has a healthy share of family wealth. Of the list's top five, three represent inherited money put to good use -- Rinehart, Pratt, and Packer.

But those stories are well-known and their successes (and failures) are constantly celebrated.

Outside of the rich listers constantly in the media, what this year’s list tells us is just how well business is going for Australia’s richest families.

Of the 200 richest Australians, 24 are listed as ‘and family’ -- these 24 listings saw an average rise of 5.28 per cent, or more than $100 million, to their wealth in the last year.

While the families on the list didn’t outperform the overall rise in average wealth on the list, which came in at 9.5 per cent, some of the biggest increases were from family businesses.

Of the 24 listed as ‘& family’, the year’s best performers are Australia’s paper and packaging tycoons, the Pratts. Anthony and his family’s wealth rose a staggering 27.73 per cent from last year’s $5.95bn, and now sits at $7.64 billion.

According to BRW, Pratt Industries, the family’s US business, is growing by 20 per cent a year. This year also saw the float of Pact Group, a packaging company led by Fiona Pratt’s husband Raphael Geminder, which has a current market capitalisation of over $1bn.

South Australian petrol and convenience store operator Yasser Shahin and his family also had a bumper year, increasing their wealth by an impressive 19.74 per cent.

Their business, On The Run, went beyond the usual petrol station offering of fuel and a sad little supermarket on the side of the highway to add big names such as Subway, Wendy’s, Hungry Jacks and Brumby’s to their outlets.

Yasser’s brother Khalil (Charlie) and Samer (Sam) help him run the company, which was founded by their father Fathi (Fred) in 1984.

In the last year the family has taken its wealth from $380m to $455m.

Want more Family Business stories like this? Sign up for our free weekly newsletter

A new addition to Australia’s billionaire club is the Perich family, led by Tony, on the back of a 16.57 per cent rise in wealth from $875m to $1.02bn.

Brothers Tony and Ron own and run Leppington Pastoral Company, the business they inherited from their parents. Among other investments, the family also has a controlling stake in the ASX-listed Freedom Foods, which doubled its share price in the last year.

Others to increase their wealth by more than 10 per cent for the year were the Stamoulis family, who sold Gold Medal Soft Drinks in 2004 and used the fund to head into property; the Ainsworth family, which draws its wealth from poker machine technology; and the MacLachlan family, which has been running the Jumbuck Pastoral Group since 1888.

On the other end of the scale

Not all of Australia's wealthy families had such a happy year. The Withers family, led by brother and sister Russell and Bev Barlow, registered an 8.28 per cent drop in wealth, from $725m to $655m.

The Withers' were responsible for bringing the 7-Eleven brand to Australia in 1977. They also made headlines in May of this year for paying an undisclosed fee for Starbucks’ Australian business. After a painful 14 years that saw its store numbers dwindle from 84 to 24, the US-based company decided to cut its losses and sell its Australian operations.

So the Withers’ cash slump of $60m is likely due to a sizeable outlay for the US coffee brand rather than poor financial management.

For the Hughes family, the year can perhaps best be described as one to forget. The family lost 6.67 per cent of their wealth amid a tough environment for the agricultural industry. Peter Hughes’ family has owned and run Hughes Pastoral Company since 1872, which now runs 150,000 cattle.

In early 2013 Mr Hughes told The Australian that situation for Australian farmers is dire.

“Our costs in Australia are two to three times what they are in America. How we think we can survive with that cost structure around our neck, we are living in a fool's paradise. The way the situation is at the moment, in a pretty short time there won't be many in it," said Mr Hughes.

Those problems have hit the family hard this year. 

Related Articles