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The NBR Rich Lists 2012 reflects some of the trends in such lists worldwide.
Those who have invested in natural resources or high-growth companies have seen their wealth increase dramatically, while those in the more traditional sectors have found the value of their businesses drop or remain static in a world still in the grip of subdued consumer spending.
This two-speed list was highlighted in Australia, where Gina Rinehart’s mining fortunes rose by a staggering $A19 billion. This took her to the title of “world’s richest woman”, displacing Sam Walton’s daughter Christy.
Mrs Rinehart’s fortune is growing at something like a million dollars every 30 minutes, based on current iron ore prices. If she was excluded from this year’s Australian Rich List, the total value of all the others would have fallen.
No New Zealand Rich Lister has access to the mineral wealth of Australia and, consequently, fortunes have risen and fallen in more modest amounts.
Even so, this year’s list contains some major movements, mainly through rises in property values. The Goodman family, which controls commercial property both here and in Australia, has jumped by $100 million, while Sir Robert Jones and Auckland’s Manson family are not far behind.
Two immigrant property owners, the Pandey brothers and the Jhunjhunwala family, are the only New Zealand-based newcomers.
Expatriate billionaire investment company owner Richard Chandler did better than anyone, with his wealth rising a whopping $1 billion to $5 billion based on his exposure to high-growth emerging markets.
By contrast, the country’s richest businessman, Graeme Hart, has seen his global empire shrink in value despite more takeovers.
The biggest loser was Canterbury’s George Kerr, whose high-profile investment company, Pyne Gould Corporation, plummeted in value.
The list farewells one of the country’s most-admired businessmen, Lloyd Morrison, who succumbed in February to leukaemia after being diagnosed in 2009.
In a double blow to the family, his uncle, Hugh Morrison, a co-founder and director of the HRL Morrison investment company that managed Infratil, died this month.
Last year, Lloyd Morrison was valued at $100 million.
Also passing on in the past year was Auckland businessman Hugh Green, who died at 80 as the list was in its final stage of completion.
Entrepreneur Craig Heatley, a founder of Sky Network TV and the youngest Rich Lister when it was first issued in 1986, has also bowed out after changes in his personal financial affairs.
He told us his wealth, previously listed at $220 million, is in independently managed Heatley family trusts that are “now mostly passive equity investors in real estate, stocks, bonds and private equity”.