BRW has done an excellent job with the 2009 Rich List as it celebrates 25 years tracking those with the cash. And at $10 a throw, the profits will be substantial, especially with the opening nine pages of advertising in a 220-page book.

The lists themselves, including the useful comparisons with earlier years, make for fascinating reading but the team has also done well with the value-add stories such as the pieces looking at wealth and sexism, which seems appallingly entrenched.

Letting a few old billionaire warriors tell their own stories was also a good initiative and you can’t go past Meriton’s Harry “slap ‘em up” Triguboff who was quoted as follows:

I don’t take sh-t from anyone so I will have my critics. But then again, I have plenty of friends, too. I cause two things: critics and friends. You can have neither of both. You can’t have one without the other. When I first started building, no-one had money so did they want me to be Michelangelo when people couldn’t afford to buy a hut?

Go Harry!

However, you also got a sense it was perhaps a last gasp for the magazine which is suffering declining circulation and relevance.

The relatively recent move of BRW’s office from Melbourne caused unprecedented staff ructions and this latest Rich List is full of contributors and Fin Review fill-ins, such as Neil Chenoweth, Robert Harley and Damon Frith. The magazine has lost its in-house depth, such that making it a weekly AFR insert looks increasingly necessary. But the 10-strong Rich List research team still comes through with the goods once a year.

Making wealth forecasts is fraught with difficulty and even David Kent, chairman of Everest Babcock Brown, told the AGM this morning that the list was “historically inaccurate”.

The context was commiserating with Jeremy Reid who at 31 is the youngest person to have ever fallen off the Rich List as the tumbling EBB share price sent his wealth down from $200 million to just $65 million.

I’m writing this from the foyer of the Millionaire Factory in Sydney’s Westin Hotel and it is good that BRW has finally seen the light and included just retired CEO Allan Moss at $225 million. How he wasn’t worth $185 million last year when Macquarie shares were 80% higher remains a mystery.

Alan Bond’s return – the first Rich Lister to ever emerge from jail and his formula of profiting from dictators remains the same – and the latest swashbuckling Perth entrepreneur Andrew Forrest have dominated today’s headlines. However, just as significant was Frank Lowy’s move past James Packer. Poor Frank has coveted the crown for 20 years and he finally succeeds in knocking off the Packers, only to have some stockbroker turned main chancer come over the top.

The strangest ranking by BRW was Gina Rinehart at just $4.39 billion. Given that iron-ore prices are soaring, Hope Downs has gone into production and Rio Tinto is bringing forward plans on the remaining 50-50 Hope Downs projects, how can Gina only stack on $390 million when Andrew Forrest is in the same Pilbara iron-ore business and we’ve all seen the Fortescue share price go into the stratosphere?

Still, it’s all largely guesswork with private companies and Gina isn’t exactly going to come out and contest the claim.

*Check out this video the Mayne Report Rich List.

Peter Fray

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