Several of us did it – but we have now all been proven wrong.
Fortescue Metals founder Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest is not Australia’s richest man and we need to quickly correct the record, lest the claims about Twiggy being richer than his mate James Packer and Rupert Murdoch becomes one of those urban myths that keeps getting repeated.
The Age and The West Australian went first with the same story on December 27. The next day I went further on ABC local radio nationally when reviewing the year with Rod Quinn, by claiming Twiggy was richer than James Packer and Rupert Murdoch.
The Australian then put this Andrew Main story on the front page on December 29, although they’ve since published follow-ups backing down, plus a correction demanded by Fortescue.
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Whilst Twiggy was nominally richer than Murdoch and Packer – on paper – for one day, this really should have been discounted given the thin holiday volumes and the quirks that flowed from Fortescue completing a 10-for-1 capital reconstruction on December 19.
It seems some punters simply got confused and thought paying $8.47 for Fortescue shortly before the close on December 28 – the day it soared 17.6% – was great value given it had spent most of the previous month above $50 – back when there was 10 times less shares on issue.
Fortescue shares today slumped another 20c to $5.99, after hitting a one-month low of $5.75 on press reports this morning that it would miss its May 2008 target for the first shipment.
Twiggy’s stake is still worth about $6 billion, but he’s well shy of James Packer’s whose three biggest personal public company investments are today worth the following amounts:
38.2% of Crown: $3.15 billion
35.32% of Consolidated Media Holdings: $1 billion
20.4% of Challenger Financial Services: $555 million
Whilst the Murdoch family and Andrew Forrest have more than 90% of their wealth tied up in News Corp and Fortescue respectively, James Packer is now nicely diversified.
The other advantage he has is a long history of healthy fully franked PBL dividends, which have delivered almost $500 million over the past three years. Even the recent demerger of the gaming and media interests produced a capital return that put more than $300 million into his pocket.
Forget about Twiggy, the bigger question is whether James Packer can fulfil his father’s dream and make himself richer than Rupert Murdoch.
I picked up a few more News Corp voting shares at $21.99 on Wednesday when they hit a two-year low and the value of the Murdoch family’s stake dropped to about $7.5 billion. BRW claims James Packer is worth $7.25 billion, but several observers reckon that’s a touch conservative so the wealth race between Australia’s two most famous media dynasties is getting very tight.