RED meat producers and processors figure prominently in a list of Australia’s 250 wealthiest people published by The Australian newspaper on Saturday.
While most can attribute the primary source of their wealth to investments in other sectors – mining, industrial and finance, for example – it’s evident that many have been drawn to make significant investments in the beef industry, either as cattle producers or further along the production chain as part of their investment portfolio.
Here’s a quick summary of the rich-listers who have strong financial connections with the red meat industry, in the order they appear in The Australian’s report:
Mining magnate Gina Rinehart (estimated to be worth $13.12 billion, just $20m behind first-placed packaging magnate Anthony Pratt and family) continues to grow her investments in Australian beef production.
This is occurring through two distinct streams:
Hancock is now Australia’s second-largest cattle producer after the Australian Agricultural Co, following the recent contraction of Consolidated Pastoral Co after asset sales. Her combined investments in agriculture in recent years is estimated to have topped $1 billion, when a potash fertiliser project in the UK is added.
Perth miner Andrew Forrest is estimated to be currently worth $7.34 billion, driven by his Fortescue Metals group.
His Minderoo Group owns and operates five large scale cattle properties totalling 1.3 million ha in the state’s north, and he also controls the Harvey Beef and Harvest Road processing operations in WA’s south – the largest processing business in the state.
His latest beef project, announced in December (see Beef Central’s earlier report) is a $50 million ‘free-range’ backgrounding and grain finishing operation near Moora, 170km north of Perth.
Worth an estimated $5.38 billion, Perth’s Kerry Stokes is executive chairman of Seven Group Holdings with interests in media, mining services and property development.
Mr Stokes in 2017 sold his Kangaroo Island pastoral assets with Partner Peter Murray for about $50 million, but continues to operate a collection of cattle properties in WA’s northwest including Napier Downs and Mount House, east of Derby, as well as leasing Aboriginal owned Leopold Downs and Fairfield, through his Australian capital equity arm.
While former Australian Army captain Michael Hintze has made most of his $3.55 billion fortune as executive chairman of London-based hedge fund CQS, he has bought 40 rural properties in Australia under his MH Premium Farms business, covering beef, lamb, wool and grain.
In 2017 he bought showcase western districts (VIC) grazing property Cheviot Hills, and secured Deltroit Station on the NSW southwest slopes a year earlier.
White Goods and electronics retail king Gerry Harvey is said to be worth $1.58 billion. He is one of Australia’s larger Wagyu cattle producers, selling branded beef into international markets through his Security Foods business.
Retailer and property developer Brett Blundy in 2015 bought Walhallow and Cresswell Downs, covering almost 10,000sq km on the eastern side of the Northern Territory from the Macquarie Group’s Paraway Pastoral. A year earlier he bought Amungee Mungee Station, east of Daly Waters, and BB Retail Capital provided finance for water and fencing developments on neighbouring stations Beetaloo and Mungabroom. Brett Blundy is estimated to be worth $1.42b
John Kahlbetzer, estimated worth be worth$1.2b, established his Twynam Agriculture Group in the early 1970s. It sold three large Lachlan River NSW frontage properties including Jemalong near Forbes and Merrowie at Hillston last year. At one time the company was one of the biggest landholders in NSW, with 430,000ha spread across prominent stations including Mungadal, Gundaline, Buttabone and Collymongle.
Red meat processor Chris Thomas, who heads family-owned Thomas Foods International, was claimed by The Australian to be worth $1.1 billion. TFI is Australia’s largest 100pc family-owned meat processor, handling 120,000 sheep, goats and lambs and 5000 cattle each week through processing plants in South Australia and NSW. The company has annual revenue of more than $2 billion.
Melbourne QC Allan Myers, valued at $812m in the Australian’s summary, holds interests in a European brewery business, hospitality and other fields. He retains a half-share in his 2000sq km Tipperary Station south of Darwin, having sold the remainder to Melbourne lawyer Jason Yeap in 2016. Earlier, Mr Myers sold other components of his Darwin region cattle aggregation, including Fish River in 2011, Elizabeth Downs in 2014, and Douglas and Douglas South in 2015.
Mr Myers also operates the Dunkeld Pastoral business near his home-town of Dunkeld, running prime lambs and Angus cattle.
With an estimated worth of $759 million, Dick Honan heads a diversified conglomerate that includes flour and sugar milling, stockfeed, ethanol production and meat processing.
Beef Central reported in December that a deal was close to being struck for the sale of Manildra’s Cootamundra abattoir in NSW. Manildra Meat Co closed Cootamundra in February 2017, blaming record high livestock prices and lack of profitability. At the time Manildra said the plant would not be put on the market, but would remain closed until trading conditions improved. Manildra fought off Chinese investor competition to purchase the Cootamundra abattoir from original owners GM Scott in 2014. The investment was made to diversify Manildra’s agribusiness interests.
Cootamundra has the capacity to process about 3500 lamb and 200 cattle a day.
Valued at $437 million, the MacLachlan family operates 12 grazing properties in NSW, South Australia and Western Australia, covering 5.75 million hectares. Sons Jock and Callum have run the business since Hugh MacLachlan stepped down in 2010 after 50 years at the helm of the business, which was started in 1888.
The Fletcher family’s Fletcher International Exports sheepmeat processing business has annual revenue of more than $500 million, through exports generated out of plants at Dubbo NSW and Albany WA. Combined, they process 90,000 sheep and lambs per week. The company also has its own grain trading and storage division. Roger Fletcher also owns 20pc of cotton grower, Cubbie Station. The family’s net worth according to the Australian’s report was $405m.
Veteran meat industry identity Joe Catalfamo, valued at $393m, heads the Australian Meat Group.
He started processing and retailing business Tasman Meat Group in the 1970s, selling its six Victorian and Tasmanian processing and lotfeeding interests to JBS Australia in 2008 for $150 million. Some thought JBS paid too much for the aging processing assets at the time.
Mr Catalfamo then expanded his Tasman Market Fresh retail meat outlets before selling to a private equity fund in 2013, later establishing Australian Meat Group, processing beef and lamb out of Dandenong, VIC. Mr Catalfamo was connected last year as a potential buyer of Manildra’s Cootamundra abattoir in NSW.
South Australian livestock producer Tom Brinkworth runs an estimated 40,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep on more than 100 properties in SA and NSW, from his headquarters at Watervalley, near Kingston. His worth was estimated at $367 million.
Son of the late corporate raider Robert, Paul Holmes a Court is chief executive of Heytesbury, running about 160,000 Brahman cattle across six Northern Territory properties. The company made a $37 million net profit in 2018, The Australian said. Heytesbury also operates the successful Vasse Felix and Watershed premium wineries in WA.
Doug Shears’ diversified agribusiness investments, valued at $351 million by the Australian, include dairy, water and fruit growing, together with the Peechelba beef feedlot near Wangaratta in Victoria. With an operating capacity of 20,000 head, Peechelba ranked number 12 in Beef Central’s list of Australia’s Top 25 feedlots. Mr Shears founded Uncle Toby’s, which he sold to Goodman Fielder for $330m in 1992.