* Nathan Tinkler sells horse-racing business to Middle East
* Former coal tycoon attempts return to industry
* Sports businesses still in trouble
By Jane Wardell
SYDNEY, May 21 Nathan Tinkler, a former pit
electrician who became Australia's youngest billionaire by
riding the country's mining boom before losing it all, is
narrowing his focus as he attempts a comeback.
Tinkler said on Wednesday he had found a buyer for his
beloved thoroughbred racing and stud empire, one of many
sidelines on which he splurged millions of dollars after making
The deal comes just a week after Tinkler announced his
return to mining, with the purchase of a closed thermal coal
mine from Peabody Energy for next to nothing.
The sale of Patinack Farm for an undisclosed sum to a
mystery consortium led by UAE-based investment firm Cibola
Capital would help fund his renewed coal ambitions, Tinkler
"My focus is on our core operations in resources and
mining," he said in a statement. "The sale will allow further
capital to be used in the development of our existing
Almost a decade has passed since Tinkler, now 38, made his
first investment in coal, buying the undeveloped Middlemount
prospect in 2006. Within two years he made a profit of more than
A$625 million on the deal and went on to buy another project,
Riding a China-driven coal boom, his fortunes peaked in
2012, with the $5-billion merger of his Aston Resources and
Boardwalk Resources with Whitehaven Coal Ltd.
Tinkler rocketed up the rich list and his name was routinely
mentioned in the same breath as iron ore heiress and Asia's
richest woman, Gina Rinehart, and Fortescue Metal Group Ltd's
Celebrating his success, Tinkler acquired the trappings of a
rich young man, including multimillion dollar properties, sports
cars, a private jet and a helicopter.
The keen race goer also fulfilled a lifelong dream with the
purchase of Patinack Farm and bought both the major sports teams
in his adopted working-class coal-mining town of Newcastle.
But it all started to unravel in the second half of 2012 as
coal prices started to slide. A year ago, Tinkler was forced to
give up his stake in Whitehaven, his biggest source of wealth,
to pay off creditors, and sell his Aston Metals business.
As the fallout continues, the National Rugby League
association is brokering a change of control of Tinkler's
Newcastle Knights after he defaulted on a A$10.5-million bank
guarantee in March.
Local reports say he is also readying to sell the Newcastle
Jets soccer team after belatedly paying off millions in unpaid
taxes to end legal action brought the Australian Tax Office.
Other assets, such as the private jet and helicopter, are
Tinkler has also been a star witness at a state hearing into
political corruption, flying in to Sydney from his Singapore
base to give evidence about whether donations he made to a
political party were designed to garner approval for his plans
for a billion-dollar coal terminal in Newcastle.
Some analysts have doubts about the price tag of his new
purchase - $70 million in cash, plus the assumption of $60
million in various obligations and liabilities.
The ageing thermal coal mine is a very different prospect
from the undeveloped Middlemount and Maules Creek projects on
which he made his billions and analysts say he is likely to have
borrowed heavily to fund the purchase.
"It's ultimately a different strategy," said Andrew
Harrington, who runs coal consultancy Indexys. "A lot depends on
your view of the coal price."
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)