Uncovering Australia’s 'hidden' billionaires

They are heirs to massive family business fortunes, but they’re largely off the public radar screen and most prefer it that way.

They are billionaires in their own right, but you may not have heard of them.

Indeed, Australia has scores of “hidden” billionaires – all siblings, children and grandchildren linked to some of Australia’s biggest family businesses. Many also hold key equity positions, but they prefer to have a low profile.

Some fortunes are handled by one or two siblings while, in other cases, the progeny have gone out and created their own business empires. There are cases where some have an equal share in the family business and the parents have handed over control. But what’s important to remember here is that these billionaires also tend to get overlooked in the rich lists. Here are some of Australia’s hidden super-rich.

Gretel Packer: The first born child of Kerry Packer and his wife Roslyn, and sister of billionaire casino-owning brother James, Gretel Packer has always been fiercely private. But she has a key stake in the Packer family’s $7 billion fortune, and also emerged recently as the chair of the Packer Family Foundation, which runs a $200 million National Philanthropic Fund established by Crown Resorts. Named after her father’s mother, the Packer family heiress has been married twice – to British financier Nick Barham and her spiritual advisor Shane Murray. She lives in Sydney, raising her three children Francesca, 19, Benjamin, 16, and William Kerry Amadeus, 8. The Packer fund will run for 10 years, and provide grants to arts programs, indigenous education programs, the Salvation Army and the Father Bob Maguire Foundation.
Graph for Uncovering Australia’s 'hidden' billionaires

The Pratt daughters: Recycling and box-making tycoon Richard Pratt died more than five years ago, leaving behind his huge Visy empire. Now under the leadership of his son Anthony, the family’s wealth is estimated at $7.64 billion. But, while Anthony is now the public face of this massive family business, his sisters Fiona Geminder and Heloise Waislitz are key stakeholders, each owning one-third of Visy. They also have big businesses, aside from their stakes in Visy. Fiona is married to Raphael Geminder, who has a 40 per cent stake in the Pact Group, Australia's largest plastic packaging manufacturer. It reported a net profit of $57.7 million in 2014 after a $1.7 billion initial public offer last December. Heloise is married to Alex Waislitz who, among other ventures, owns and runs the listed investment fund Thorney Opportunities.

The Fox family: Lindsay Fox, 77, the founder of Australia’s largest privately-owned transport and logistics company Linfox, is worth $2.12 billion. But his five adult children now effectively run the day-to-day affairs of the family business, overseeing its trucking operations, its Armaguard cash security business, commercial properties and developments, and stakes in Victoria’s Avalon and Essendon airports. Each has a separate role at the trucking giant: Peter is executive chairman, David heads the group’s airports and Armaguard business, and Andrew handles its property portfolio. Lisa and Katrina are involved in marketing and other functions. Heirs to the Fox fortune include the 14 grandchildren, some of whom are still very young and unlikely at this stage to be even thinking of a career in the family business.
Graph for Uncovering Australia’s 'hidden' billionaires

The Hains family: Stephen, Richard and Michael, the three eldest sons of David Hains ($2.4 billion), oversee different aspects of the family’s Portland House Group, a private hedge fund which employs about 85 people in offices in New York, London and its Collins Street, Melbourne, headquarters. That allows David, 83, to spend his days as one of Australia’s premier owner-breeders of thoroughbred horses. His Kingston Park Stud on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has produced champions including 1990 Melbourne Cup winner Kingston Rule and three-time Cox Plate winner Kingston Town.

The Triguboff grandchildren: Billionaire apartment developer Harry Triguboff ($5.5 billion) has plans for Meriton, the company he set up when he was 30 and still runs at the age of 81. Twice married and with two daughters and four grandchildren, he has learned that his daughters have no interest in the company. He has reportedly been considering the possibility of one day handing over the reins of his multi-billion-dollar company to his four grandchildren. His grandson Daniel is now working for the company, doing land buying and project management. “What I do is from time to time I give my children and grandchildren some properties,’’ Triguboff told BRW last year. “It’s in their name. So whatever happens to me at least they will have their own property.”

The Lowy succession: Three years ago, Frank Lowy, 83, ($7.2 billion) stood down as executive chairman of Westfield, the global shopping centre empire and public company he founded and led for more than half a century. Two of his sons, Peter and Steven, are now Westfield Group's joint chief executives. Another son, David, quit the Westfield board to concentrate on running the family's private business investments, taking in the proceeds from the $664 million sale of the Westfield Retail Trust into the Lowy Private Group. The Lowy Private Group, which invests across asset classes and geographies, has been set up to provide for the wider Lowy family. “I have 10 grandchildren coming up through the ranks and they may want to pursue other opportunities,” Frank Lowy said back in 1998.

The Gandel Besen dynasty: The Besen family, worth $2.29 billion, is led by Marc and Eva Besen who are essentially Australia’s retail royalty. Eva, along with her brother John Gandel ($4.1 billion) and husband Marc, bought out her parents’ business and built the Sussan Group fashion chain. Gandel bought a stake in Melbourne’s Chadstone Shopping Centre in 1980, now the largest mall in the southern hemisphere, and his four children have been involved in the family business. His son Tony runs Gandel Invest, which has made strategic investments in technology companies in Australia and the United States, including the Seattle-headquartered Datacastle.

Similarly, the Besen children have not exactly sat back and waited to inherit. The Besen’s daughter Naomi Milgrom bought Sussan in 2003, and her retail empire turned over $445 million in the 2013 financial year. Her sister Carol Schwartz is a director of property group Stockland and executive chairman of Qualitas Property Partners. She is also a serious investor and into arts, ideas and innovation. Another Besen daughter, Deborah Dadon, owns Ubertas Properties with husband Albert. Daniel Besen and his wife Danielle are also extensively involved in property through his private equity company Besen Pty Ltd, while Eva and Marc have a stake in Gandel’s Highpoint Shopping Centre.
Graph for Uncovering Australia’s 'hidden' billionaires

There are many more hidden billionaires across Australia, some choosing active roles in their family businesses, some preferring to stay behind the scenes, and others taking the opportunity to use their personal wealth to start businesses of their own. But they have one thing in common. All of them are heirs to huge fortunes and, in their own ways, are continuing the traditions established in their successful family businesses.

Want access to our latest research and new buy ideas?

Start a free 15 day trial and gain access to our research, recommendations and market-beating model portfolios.

Sign up for free

Related Articles