21/06/2005 - 22:00

Private money and power a heady mix

21/06/2005 - 22:00


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If money equals power and influence, then Perth’s prominent private business owners must rank as some of the state’s most influential people.

Private money and power a heady mix

If money equals power and influence, then Perth’s prominent private business owners must rank as some of the state’s most influential people.

However, it’s not simply a matter of having lots of money; it’s also a case of using that money to effectively marshal resources.

Influence can also come from being widely respected and having a high public profile.

Janet Holmes a Court fits the bill on all counts. As chairman of Heytesbury Holdings, which has interests in cattle, wine, racehorses, art, property and construction, she has substantial wealth, but she is also widely respected for her philanthropic work and support for the arts community through organisations such as the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and the Black Swan Theatre Company.

As a mother of four who took over the family business after the sudden death of her husband, Robert, in 1990, she has also become a role model and inspiration for many women.

Kerry Stokes, who built his fortune in the WA building industry, has become influential nationally through his media interests, particularly his role as chairman of the Seven Network, which gives him both political and commercial influence.

He is also well known for his involvement in the arts community and maintains extensive private business interests through his company Australian Capital Equity and the WesTrac heavy equipment business.

Len Buckeridge has enormous commercial influence as the owner of BGC, one of WA’s biggest home building and manufacturing companies.

In the past he has also been politically influential and is used to getting his way, but under the current Labor government he is struggling to win support for proposed developments, such as a new brickworks and a new commercial port at Kwinana.

The political winds are blowing more friendly for low-profile Griffin Group chairman Rick Stowe, who gained state government approval for the Bluewaters coal-fired power station at Collie, despite environmental concerns about the project.

In addition, Mr Stowe has wide commercial influence through Griffin’s diverse business activities, which span coal mining, agriculture, signage, property and equipment rental.

The group has 800 employees and claims to be one of Australia’s top 100 private companies.

In the automotive trade, two prominent and influential people are John Hughes, who owns the self-named group, and Bob Branchi, who is chairman of Automotive Holdings Group.

John Hughes may not be the biggest car dealer in Perth but he has a high public profile and is seen as an industry leader.

In contrast, the people who own and run AHG maintain low public profiles, yet they have far more commercial influence. AHG owns 19 car and truck dealerships and recently acquired a 60 per cent interest in six Ford dealerships, as it readies for a stockmarket float.

Nick Tana has diverse business interests in horticulture, fast food (Chicken Treat and Red Rooster) and woodchipping (Hansol), but is best known as chairman and majority shareholder in the Perth Glory football team.

Gina Rinehart, whose wealth flows from lucrative iron ore royalties negotiated by her late father, Lang Hancock, is using her money and influence to try and develop the $2 billion Hope Downs iron ore project in the Pilbara.




•           Janet Holmes a Court

            Heytesbury Holdings.


•           Len Buckeridge



•           Rick Stowe

            Griffin Group.


•           Kerry Stokes

            Seven Network, Australian Capital Equity, WesTrac.


•           Bob Branchi

            Automotive Holdings Group.


•           Gina Rinehart

            Hancock Prospecting.


•           Nick Tana 

            Australian Fast Foods.


•           John Hughes

            John Hughes Group.


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