12/07/2005 - 22:00

Mining giants leave an unintended legacy of disputation

12/07/2005 - 22:00

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Peter Wright’s children are Michael, Angela Bennett, and Julian. Only Michael and Angela appear among BRW’s Top 200 Richest.

Peter Wright’s children are Michael, Angela Bennett, and Julian.

Only Michael and Angela appear among BRW’s Top 200 Richest.

This year they were listed as being jointly worth $650 million, up $50 million on 2004.

Younger son, Julian, went it alone 20 years ago by selling his stake in Wright Prospecting to his father.

But that deal has caused strife.

Julian’s son, Timothy, and daughter, Natalie, have sought an 11 per cent stake in the company. The original arrangement was for their grandfather to pay $1.04 million for Julian’s stake.

But he’d only paid $172,000 before dying in 1985, so Angela and Michael acquired Julian’s stake for $6.8 million.

In August 2001, Timothy and Natalie launched an action that was thrown out of court the next year.

They appealed, claiming they wanted their father’s share of the estate and an accounting of prices received by uncle and aunt.

They have now brought in litigation funder IMF to assist their claim, which they estimate to be worth more than $50 million.

In addition, Michael and Angela are locked in a legal tussle with Lang Hancock’s only child, Gina Rinehart.

Both claimed ownership of Ms Rinehart’s stake in the Rhodes Ridge joint venture, which controls deposits near Newman estimated to contain four billion tonnes of iron ore.

Julian later became entangled in a legal row with a business partner to oust Perth software whiz, Steven Goh, from Perth financial services player Sanford.

Ms Rinehart’s biggest and unwelcomed spending spree was her monumental struggle with stepmother, Rose Porteous.

Not only was a battery of Perth lawyers paid several million dollars, but witnesses for Ms Rinehart received $800,000 as “witness management and protection” for flying to Perth to give evidence.

In 2003, stepmother and stepdaughter called it quits by agreeing to cease all legal actions.

Their legal fracas degenerated into name calling.

While commenting on his legal fight with Timothy and Natalie he said: “We don’t want another Rose Hancock-Porteous thing going on.

“That worries the hell out of me because we’re not in the same ilk as that lady.”

Mrs Porteous responded: “I am completely amazed at the intelligence of this Wright creature.

“These people never had to work for their money. I had to earn my money. I didn’t just get it from Lang.”

Attorney-General Jim McGinty even joined in. He criticised both millionairesses for clogging up the courts, thereby sidelining other cases.

Despite this, Ms Rinehart’s capital reserves hardly felt the outlays.

Last year, BRW named her Australia’s richest woman with an estimated fortune of $260 million.

Mrs Porteous is believed to be worth about $90 million.

But she is involved in a struggle with lawyers over what is reputed to be a $14 million legal bill.

Ms Rinehart has four children, John (now Hancock) and Bianca from her first marriage and two daughters, Hope and Gina, from her second.

But John has launched a legal action claiming a direct stake in the family’s fortunes, so a repetition of the Timothy and Natalie Wright clash with uncle and aunt.

An outcome of the Rineharts’ mother-son split has been the emergence of daughter, Bianca.

She’s set to become the next overseer of her family’s stake in the perpetual royalty flow.

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