Mining magnate beats Murdoch in Australian rich list

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The Independent Online

He still rules his media empire with an iron rod, but in his native Australia Rupert Murdoch has been supplanted as the country's wealthiest businessman by an iron ore magnate, Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest.

Apart from in China, his main customer, Mr Forrest is little known outside Australia. But according to the annual rich list, the 49-year-old has amassed a personal fortune of $6.2bn (£3.85bn). That puts Mr Murdoch's estimated $5.7bn in the shade, relegating him to the number two spot.

The list – published by BRW business magazine – reflects the state of the economy, and the mining industry is booming thanks to China's insatiable demand for Australian minerals. Soaring iron prices have boosted the value of Mr Forrest's shares in his Fortescue Metals Group by one-third over the past year. Mr Murdoch's wealth, by contrast, has shrunk from $6bn.

Third on the list is another media tycoon, James Packer, who also has extensive gambling interests. Mr Packer is worth $3.6bn. Fourth is Kerry Stokes, who owns the Seven Network, one of Australia's biggest commercial TV networks. His personal wealth is valued at $1.8bn.

Baby-faced Mr Forrest helped bring about a change of prime minister last year: he led a fight against Kevin Rudd's plan to impose an extra tax on the mining industry's "super profits" – one of the main reasons for Julia Gillard's coup. Ms Gillard has replaced the tax with a slimmed-down version.

Worth just $36m seven years ago, Mr Forrest has prospered by taking on two of the world's biggest mining companies, Rio Tinto and BHP. Fortescue Metals is now the third largest player in Western Australia's remote Pilbara region, shipping tens of millions of tons of iron ore to China annually.

Nearly half of Australia's 200 richest executives hail from the mining and resource sector. Coal, nickel, gold, uranium, lead, natural gas – you name it, China needs it for its industrial revolution, and Australia has untold quantities beneath the ground.

Only four women feature in the list, the richest being Katie Page, managing director of the Harvey Norman electrical and computer retailer. Ms Page, who is married to the company's co-founder, Gerry Harvey, is at number 66, with shares worth $51m.