Riches to rags to riches for Australian tycoon

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - A former Australian tycoon who lost his fortune and his reputation in the 1990s and ended up in jail, has gone from rags to riches for a second time.

Australian entrepreneur Alan Bond leaves the Karnet Prison Farm in this March 9, 2000 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer

Former brewing and media magnate Alan Bond, who was jailed in 1997 for fraud after crashing into bankruptcy in 1992 with A$1.8 billion ($1.7 billion) in debts, has been named one of the country’s richest people by the BRW magazine.

Bond was 157th on the list of the business magazine’s list of the wealthiest 200 Australians on Thursday, with A$265 million, 21 years after the magazine rated him the fourth-richest man, with his personal wealth peaking at A$400 million in 1987.

“He is certainly a hard man to stop,” Australian Shareholders Association spokesman Stephen Matthews told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, adding those who lost money to Bond would be stung by his return to wealth.

Mining entrepreneur Andrew Forrest, head of Fortescue Metals Group Ltd, was named Australia’s richest man with A$9.4 billion, followed by shopping centre magnate Frank Lowy, chairman of Westfield Group, with A$6.3 billion.

James Packer, whose family has topped Australia’s rich list for 20 years due to its media and casino interests Crown Ltd, formerly known as PBL, slipped to third on the list with A$6.1 billion, down A$1.2 billion on a year ago.

The magazine said it conducted extensive research into Bond, who is now living in London and holds large stakes in oil and diamond projects in Africa. Bond, 70, started his career as a signwriter in the Western Australian city of Perth, but built his fortune after buying a brewery and later briefly owned Australia’s Nine television network, which he bought from James Packer’s father, the late Kerry Packer.

Bond became a national hero in Australia in 1983, when his team won the prestigious America’s Cup yacht race, taking the trophy out of the United States for the first time.

After his bankruptcy, investors in his business got only half a cent for every dollar owed. He was jailed for three years for his role in stripping A$1.2 billion from his company Bell Resources, and released in 2000.


Reporting by James Grubel, editing by Miral Fahmy