Without the flagship Rich List editions, Fairfax’s BRW magazine would be an even more marginal proposition that would probably go the same way as The Bulletin.

This explains why the original Rich 200 list now has bastardised versions such as the Young Rich and the Richest Entertainers.

One of the more recent versions has been the “Executive Rich”, released yesterday, which tracks the wealth of CEOs and divisional managers, but ignores non-executive directors such as Macquarie Group chairman David Clarke and Fairfax’s own deputy chairman, John B Fairfax, whose stake is worth more than $750 million.

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Executive Rich editor John Stenshold even got to write his own summary of his research for The AFR today – and in one of those rare examples of News Ltd mentioning a Fairfax story, the Herald Sun gave it a big burst on page 15 this morning.

Then again, BRW has dropped its stupid exclusion of Rupert Murdoch for this version of the list, so the Herald Sun was able to trumpet the wealth of its proprietor, although he won’t enjoy being valued at only $7.87 billion and being knocked off by Fortescue’s Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest at $8.36 billion.

However, in this fast moving market, the information is already well out of date. Twiggy’s stake is today worth just over $7 billion and the Murdoch interests hold about $6.8 billion worth of News Corp stock.

The disappearance of Eddy Groves, David Coe and the MFS twins Phil Adams and Michael King from the list demonstrates the point that gross equity value is irrelevant if you’re carrying too much debt.

Whilst the likes of Gerry Harvey and Asciano CEO Mark Rowsthorn can be accurately valued after revealing debt positions, the same can’t be said for Rupert Murdoch, James Packer, Kerry Stokes or even Frank Lowy.

BRW has today put four major Bell Potter shareholders on its Executive Rich list. This presumably means that a recent report in The Australian talking about margin loans of up to 70% at Bell Potter is either wrong or has been ignored.

The magazine today values Greg Goodman at $489.7 million yet The AFR mentioned the family was worth $1.2 billion and we now know the Goodman CEO is down to a stake worth about $300 million after selling enough stock this week to pay down $288 million of margin loans.

Rich Lists are never accurate, but this particular effort only focusing on gross shareholdings of executives is unique because the information is all public anyway, yet without the debt figure or knowledge of other assets, it is largely irrelevant. That said, it will still sell well and attract plenty of media attention because Australians want to know about the richest Joneses they need to keep up with.

Check out the fast-growing Mayne Report Rich List of more than 800 Australians we estimate are worth more than $20 million.

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Crikey is an independent Australian-owned and run outfit. It doesn’t enjoy the vast resources of the country’s main media organisations. We take seriously our responsibility to bear witness.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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