The annual BRW List of Australia’s richest people was released on Friday, and despite the hotel industry’s wave of success and the demise of mining, results were mixed and hotelier rankings down.
The soft-spoken octogenarian Len Ainsworth continued his legacy as the richest man in the hospitality industries to make the list, buoyed by the sale earlier this year of his majority stake in Ainsworth Gaming Technology to Novomatic for $473 million.
Ainsworth has proven a good bet, going up in worth a lazy $80 million to $1.92 billion, although this still saw him fall four places on the Top 200 List to #23.
Next appearing for the hotel sector is the Mathieson dynasty, led by industry veteran Bruce Mathieson, whose son Bruce Mathieson Jr steers Australia’s largest publican, ALH Group, in which they have a 25 per cent stake in partnership with Woolworths.
Mathieson Jr recently returned to a more hands-on role in the company, resuming the title of national operations manager to the group’s 330 pubs, and moving to de-emphasize his role as CEO.
While ALH has shown consistent growth and performance, with three REITs now holding titles to freehold it occupies, the Mathieson fortune has reportedly fallen $160 million to an even $1 billion, and a subsequent 14 places on the List to #39.
Chris Morris, owner of Colonial Leisure Group (CLG) and Townsville Casino, came in at #86, down 15 places from 2015. Morris finally retired as chairman of his global firm Computershare last November, and has since added to CLG’s portfolio in WA and Victoria, buying his first NSW venue – Keystone’s Newtown Hotel in February this year.
The colourful and indomitable John Singleton made his money mostly through the advertising firm he founded and later listed on the ASX. These days his interests are largely split between his horseracing entity Strawberry Hill Stud and his Australian Pub Fund, fronted by Riversdale Group.
Riversdale has led a quiet consolidation of its rapid expansion in the past two years since the vocal Paddy Coughlan stepped down as CEO. Nevertheless, Singleton has bolstered his bottom line, increasing his worth around $15 million. But he slipped 13 places on the List, to #155.
Holding on to a spot on the List is the venerable Arthur Laundy, who debuted just a few years ago, in 2013, after the mammoth deal with ALH for the leases on 30 of his pubs pushed his net worth to around $235 million.
Laundy has shown no sign of slowing in building his pub empire, acquiring no less than three new venues this year alone. Despite any new liabilities, he has bolstered his balance sheet two million to around $308 million. But in keeping with the escalating totals on the List, has also fallen 12 places to pull in at #198.
Australia’s richest person for 2016 was a man that has worked his way up the honour role since its inception in 1983. After 33 appearances, Harry Triguboff reached the mantle of #1.
Not (yet) a pillar of hospitality, Triguboff is the hands-on pilot of Meriton Group, which he founded, and refuses to sell to the Chinese. Instead, he keeps buying sites and building thousands of new units in a the high-rise property market – in contrast to the alarming falls observed by the hole-owning mining magnates.