Australian tycoon Rinehart wants to end family feud to focus on business

SYDNEY Tue Oct 1, 2013 5:56am EDT

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart, one of the world's richest women, wants to relinquish control over a $4 billion family trust, after several years of legal wrangling with her children over who gets what and when.

Lawyers for Rinehart, 59, told a court that the legal battle with two of her four children, which has been played out in public and captivated Australia, had placed huge pressure on their client but was now "effectively over".

Bruce McClintock, one of Rinehart's lawyers, said the two-year legal fight between the tycoon and her children, John Hancock and Bianca Hope Rinehart, had created "untenable risk" of damage to Hancock Prospecting Group, the mining company established by her late father and the source of her wealth.

"The increased demands on her time in dealing with the ... plaintiff's issues has taken valuable time away from her responsibilities," he told the New South Wales Supreme Court.

Hancock Prospecting is in the midst of funding negotiations to develop a $10-billion dollar iron ore project in Australia.

Rinehart nor her children attended the hearing.

Two years ago, Rinehart's children filed a claim alleging their mother acted "deceitfully" and with "gross dishonesty" by secretly delaying by 57 years the date they would get their trust funds, set up in 1988 by her father, Lang Hancock.

Those allegations are scheduled to be heard in court on October 8.

Rinehart, with the support of her youngest daughter, Ginia, has denied the claims. Another daughter, Hope Welker, had already withdrawn her objections.

Throwing a spotlight on the wealthy family, Rinehart has described the warring children as lazy and spoiled and had warned their security would be at risk if they persisted with their legal actions.

The feud started after Rinehart changed the date of entitlement to the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust from 2011 to 2068. The trust contains almost 25 percent of Hancock Prospecting, and promised to make each child a billionaire.

Lawyers for the children who filed the claim said on Tuesday they were falsely led to believe by Rinehart they would be liable for hefty capital gains tax if the trust was disbursed.

Rinehart, whose fortune was estimated by Forbes at around $18 billion last year, has been granted a mediation session to name a new trustee. The mining magnate wants it to be an immediate family member with "specific characteristics" - such as impartiality, sensibility and experience in the mining industry, her lawyer said.

(Editing by Ed Davies)

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