Most of the papers have led their BRW
Rich List coverage today with the story of the Dutch immigrant John Van
Lieshout who miraculously debuted on the Rich List at $1 billion. Truth
be known, BRW has been blundering for years by not including
Lieshout, whose discount Queensland furniture chain Super A-Mart is
hardly an invisible enterprise.

In managing such a huge omission, you would have thought BRW
would creep the missing billionaire up the list over a few years,
rather than parachuting him straight into the 21-strong billionaire
club, thereby highlighting its previous omissions.

The Rich List issue is thought to sell more than double the average BRW
issue, which has an audited circulation of 58,000, much of which go to
Australia’s accountants in the mother of all group deals.

Those actually on the Rich List often laugh at the figures, claiming that BRW
ignores the small matters of tax, debt and the cost of an expensive
lifestyle. But it’s not an easy exercise, and no-one could ever get
even close to accurate given the inherent secrecy of Australia’s rich
and the complexity of their affairs.

Crikey campaigned for a
couple of years to have Allan Myers QC included on the list, and he
finally made his debut last year at a paultry $120 million. Myers was
bumped up a miserly $11 million to $131 million this year, even though
many people swear he’s a billionaire thanks to his famous Polish
brewery play and his huge property holdings, including a one-third
interest in one of the world’s biggest aquarium businesses.

Then
there are the names that still don’t appear at all. What about the
Cripps family, which has the worldwide franchise for Velcro? In terms
of overstatements, we don’t buy the line that Crown Casino founder
Lloyd Williams is worth $700 milliion when his wealth would appear to
have gone backwards since he privatised Hudson Conway in 1999.

As
for the billionaires, the most dubious entry is probably property
developer Lang Walker, whose listed company limped along for years
before the Singapore Government’s Australand took it over five years
ago – yet now he’s suddenly worth $1.16 billion.

In general, we
reckon there are more overstatements than understatements, but another
figure whose net worth is too low is Brisbane mogul Terry Peabody, who BRW reckons has risen by $160 million to $520 million over the year. Check out our Peabody coverage here.

Crikey
used to produce its own Rich List, but we never got much further than
about 20 names because it’s such a huge exercise. It’s far easier to
simply critique the BRW effort, so we urge the 21,500-strong
Crikey army to go out and buy what is always a good read and then send
through their corrections or additions to [email protected].