Gina Rinehart rockets back to top of AFR rich list as pandemic proves kind to 'ore-ligarchs'

Ben Butler
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

Australia’s rich have gotten richer during the coronavirus pandemic, as rising iron ore prices bolstered Gina Rinehart’s wealth and thrust her back to the top of the Australian Financial Review’s annual rich list.

The total wealth of the 200 richest people in Australia increased 24% over the past year, to $424bn, even as the country was plunged into recession and unemployment soared due to the pandemic.

And iron ore prices that rose from about US$80 a tonne late last year to a peak of more than US$125 last month have dramatically increased the wealth of what the AFR has dubbed “ore-ligarchs” including Rinehart and Fortescue Metals founder Andrew Forrest.

Rinehart’s net worth has more than doubled, from $13.81bn to $28.89bn, moving her from second to first on the rich list while Forrest’s almost tripled, rising from $7.99bn to $23bn and rocketing him from eighth spot to second, the AFR said.

The vast increases in the wealth of the two iron ore magnates pushed last year’s No 1 – packaging king Anthony Pratt, into third position even though his fortune also swelled – from $15.57bn to $19.75bn.

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Hui Wing Mau, the chair of Hong Kong listed Shimao Property Holdings, a property developer in mainland China, was fourth at $18.06bn, up from $10.39bn last year.

He went to university in South Australia and is an Australian citizen.

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes was fifth on $16.93bn, up from $9.63bn last year.

People whose fortunes derive from internet shopping also did well out of the pandemic year, with Nick Molnar, the co-founder of controversial buy-now-pay-later outfit Afterpay, vaulting from 194th on the list last year to 50th this year.

His wealth exploded by 283%, from $487m to $1.86bn, the AFR said.

However, the shutdown of the tourism, travel and education sectors crushed the fortunes of some of the list’s stalwarts.

Flight Centre owners Graham “Skroo” Turner, Bill James and Geoff Harris were exiled from the list for the first time since the early 90s while $1.3bn was stripped from the wealth of Alan Rydge, the chairman of hotel and tourism operator Event Hospitality and Entertainment.

The AFR will publish its full list on Friday.

Australia’s five richest people

  1. Gina Rinehart, $28.89bn

  2. Andrew Forrest, $23bn

  3. Anthony Pratt and family, $19.75bn

  4. Hui Wing Mau, $18.06bn

  5. Mike Cannon-Brookes, $16.93bn