The Business On... Graeme Hart, Reynolds Group
Thursday 19 August 2010
Sorry, don't know him
That's the way he likes it: Mr Hart falls into that rare class of people one might describe as "low-profile billionaires". Self-made businessmen who strike it rich have a habit of shouting their stories from the rooftops, but Mr Hart rarely speaks to the media or appears in public.
You'd better shout for him then
Forget Rupert Murdoch, James Packer or Westfield's Frank Lowy. Mr Hart's fortune, estimated at $4.5bn, makes him the richest man in Australasia (he's a New Zealander by the way), and 109th in the world.
How did he make that sort of money?
Having left school aged 15 in 1970, Mr Hart worked as a panel beater and a tow truck driver before returning to education later in life. His MBA thesis explains how to make money from taking on debt in order to buy well-performing companies that throw off enough cash to service the borrowing. Put the debt on the balance sheet and, as it gets repaid, the value of your equity rises and you're quids in. Classic leveraged buyout stuff, in fact, which has worked for Mr Hart time and again.
So what's he up to now?
His holding company, Reynolds Group, has just shelled out $6bn for Pactiv, the world's biggest manufacturer of food containers. It's a US company but has a large operation in this country. Starbucks and McDonald's are both customers.
Can we expect a visit?
Probably not. He's a finance guy rather than a hands-on operator and tends to leave running his businesses to professional managers.
Leaving him with more time to spend his money?
Perhaps, though it has to be said Mr Hart appears to live a relatively quiet life with his wife in Auckland. His one expensive hobby is sailing – the 58m motor yacht he owns is moored near his home and reportedly cost £45m. It was five years in the building — not least because a fire in the New Orleans shipyard where it was constructed caused significant delays to the project.
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