John Howard inherited a $500 billion economy in 1996 and this year our GDP will be $800 billion. So, which companies have benefitted the most from our economic prosperity? And which have got rich from special government deals and hand outs? Send your entries to boss @crikey.com.au.

The Prime Minister’s forestry policy has once again played into the hands of a major company which has already got fantastically rich for the 1997 regional forests agreement.

Shares in Tassie tree-lopping giant Gunns Ltd have rocketed from $1.50 to $14 since 1999 and this has only occurred because it has had access to all that wonderful forest.

As we count the hours down to polling day, it is worth looking at the biggest corporate winners from the Howard years.

The Age’s Chris Webbhad a nice story this week about Peter Costello’s best mate Michael Kroger turning a $400 child care centres investment into more than $5 million. This is a business that still gets half its revenue from the public purse and people like Eddie Groves have found themselves on the Rich List courtesy of all the government largesse flowing to the child care sector.

Apart from the banking cartel, numerous private healthcare companies and the grocery duopoly, which others companies and individuals have been the biggest winners from specific Howard Government policies?

Who can forget the demutualisation of the Australian Stock Exchange which has given the 606 fat cat stockbroker members a windfall of about $3 million each if they’ve held the stock.

There is no more lucrative government-sanctioned monopoly in Australia and if you paid $25,000 for your membership then you’ve enjoyed a 100-fold-plus return on that investment.

The Labor Party gave their support to this grubby proposal which partly came because Kim Beazley’s former chief of staff Michael Costello was recruited as deputy CEO of the ASX at the time they needed to get their legislation through the Parliament.

The waterfront winners

Shareholders in Patrick Corporation are also huge winners from the Howard years as their share price plunged to below $2 at the height of the 1998 dispute but has provided a 10-fold return since then, delivering hundreds of millions to key shareholders such as CEO Chris Corrigan and John Elliott’s former right hand man Peter Scanlon.

Meanwhile, an executive with one of the oil majors writes:

What about Manildra? They’ve had an entire industry re-configured to suit their interests.

Regards, The Oilee

CRIKEY: Keep the submissions on Howard’s biggest winners coming to [email protected].