The death of Multiplex founder John Roberts last month and Transfield
founder Franco Belgiorno-Nettis this week has highlighted a trend which
has been emerging over the past few years – that more and more Rich
Listers are meeting their maker.

Indeed, three of our top 100 companies – PBL, Multiplex and Transfield
Services – have seen dominant founders and drivers of their empires
pass on over the past seven months.

Here is a list of the departures due to death in the past seven editions of the BRW Rich List

2000, four: TNT founder Sir Peter Abeles, shipping
and lobster king Michael Kallis, Sydney property developer Henry Roth
and music publisher and media owner Tony Albert.

2001, four: textiles and property developer Nathan Baron,
property investor Bela Schwartz, Reece plumbing founder Leslie Wilson
and 7-11 owner Reg Withers.

2002, none.

2003, three: Stockland founder Ervin Graf, Sydney industrialist Kevin Kirby and Melbourne property developer Ted Lustig.

2004, one: chicken and racing king Jack Ingham.

2005, four: Rupert Murdoch’s sister Helen Handbury, property
developer Bernard Lewis, Melbourne developer Isador Magid and Sydney
car dealer Fred Sutton.

2006, seven: Kerry Packer, cattle king Peter
Menegazzo, colourful developer Brian Ray, Perth property developer Bill
Wyllie, hotels matriarch Eve Schwartz, Brisbane builder products czar
Joe Saragossi and
property developer Eddie Kornhauser.

These statistics tell a story about the fact that Australia’s wealth is
still concentrated in the hands of business leaders who built their
empires over the past 50 years but have now largely handed over to
their children.

The names are clearly getting bigger and Rich List obituaries will
continue to come at a faster rate over the years ahead. The past seven
months has probably seen the balance move to the next generation in a
majority of situations although there are some notable entrepreneurs
such as Frank Lowy, Rupert Murdoch and Dick Pratt who are still in the
driving seat well into their 70s.

The Belgiorno-Nettis and Roberts families have had their problems in
recent years although both successions were well and truly sorted
before their death of their founders.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey