BRW Australian Rich List released and the rich are still very rich

This is definitely my week for F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American author whose book “The Great Gatsby” is the source material for Baz Luhrmann’s film opening next week here in Australia.  (It’s also my week for observing how wealth is unequally distributed.)

Fitzgerald reportedly said to fellow writer Ernest Hemingway “The rich are different from us.”  To which Hemingway reportedly replied, “Yes, they have more money.”  (Some versions have Fitzgerald saying “the very rich”.)  For a full discussion of how and when this was said, go to Lionel Trilling’s essay on Fitzgerald, which was published in his classic book The Liberal Imagination.  You can find a copy of this essay at this very odd Russian website.

Well, this saying came back to me when I received the emailed press release yesterday with an announcement of the BRW “Rich List” for 2013, which will be formally released later today – Thursday 23 May 2013.  I reproduce part of the media release below.

  • Gina Rinehart remains the richest Australian – topping the 2013 BRW Rich 200.
  • # 2 is Frank Lowy, and # 3 James Packer.
  • Total wealth of the Rich 200 is down $4.4 billion to $176.8 billion but when Rinehart is excluded, total wealth rises by $2.7 billion to $154.8 billion.
  • The average wealth per person on the Rich 200 has fallen to $884 million, down from $906 million last year.
  • Cut-off rises $25 million to $235 million.
  • Chinese-based property developer Hui Wing Mau debuts at 7th spot on the list with a $4.82 billion fortune.
  • 14 women make the cut-off for 2013 BRW Rich 200. Therese Rein drops off after debuting last year.

The biggest fall has been felt by the richest Australian of all time: Gina Rinehart.  Rinehart retains her firm grip on the top spot despite the fall in her wealth to $22.02 billion from $29.17 billion last year.  All of the five biggest falls on the 2013 BRW Rich 200 (on both dollar value and proportional bases) are from the mining sector.  Among them are Fortescue Metals Group’s Andrew Forrest, who is down $2.23 billion to $3.66 billion and political aspirant Clive Palmer, down to $2.2 billion from $3.85 last year.

A former number one, Frank Lowy, moves from third last year to second on the 2013 BRW Rich 200 after gaining about $400 million. His $6.87 billion valuation is underpinned by some modest growth at his shopping centre business Westfield Group.  One of the big movers on this year’s BRW Rich 200 is James Packer. His wealth has risen to $6 billion from $5.21 billion on the back of strong growth in his gambling interests taking him to the #3 spot.  Anthony Pratt has had another good year at #4 on the BRW Rich 200. The family-owned flagship business Visy continues to achieve strong results here and Pratt’s US-based box making business Pratt Industries is growing quickly.

Top 5

Gina Rinehart

$22.02 b

Frank Lowy

$7.40 b

James Packer

$6.00 b

Gambling, investment
Anthony Pratt & family

$5.95 b

Manufacturing, investment
Ivan Glasenberg

$5.61 b


Although we are not as unequal as the USA, wealth is still very unevenly distributed in Australia.  As Australian economics journalist Peter Martin succinctly puts it:  we Australians “think the rich have too much – but we’ve no idea of how skewed the distribution really is.”



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