Imagine your great-grandmother died, leaving you with an enormous warehouse full of facekinis. Imagine a few years later, the inscrutable Chinese decided looking like a member of the IRA (Irish Rainbow Army) was essential beachwear. Facekini demand then vastly outstripped supply, and suddenly they were changing hands for big $$$. Hooray! So you call in a global facekini exporter, cut a straightforward deal and watch the rivers of cash flow. Then, if you’re a normal person, you build a solid-gold helicopter and ignore all other people for the rest of eternity.
But not if you’re Australia’s richest shit-poet, Gina Rinehart. Rinehart has hit out at those less fortunate than her, ie me, you and everyone you’ve ever met in your entire life:
“If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself – spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working.”
She goes on to aver a view that the minimum wage should be cut, which for someone with vast personal wealth and ambitions in the public sphere, is not good ‘optics’.
The point here is not that there’s something wrong with having amazingly good luck. It’s not about your feelings about the way inheritance is taxed in Australia. It’s not about your views on the minimum wage. It’s definitely not about your views on climate change or the ownership of Fairfax (and personally I would love to see Rinehart save Fairfax from itself and do whatever she ruddy well wanted with it).
The point is this: Gina Rinehart is not Ingvar Kamprad. She has not come into an enormous, stable, mature market and utterly revolutionised it via excellence in new product development, operational processes, retail environment and cost control, thereby producing radically better and cheaper products than anyone else has managed over thousands of years. Yes, he was a Nazi. But he was a genius. Like Eichmann, but not as bad.
Rinehart is definitely not a Steve Jobs. She’s not a Rupert Murdoch. She’s not even a (oh Jesus) Dick Smith (oh God, I’m sorry). Let’s recap the key facts, which are in the public domain, and skip around the stuff that might be a bit defamey.
- Rinehart became chairman of the family company, Hancock Prospecting (HPPL), when her father passed away in 1992.
- To be fair, Hancock Prospecting was not worth very much when she became chairman, but it had accumulated a large number of mining tenements and leases.
- A few years later demand for resources went through the roof, thanks largely to the growth of China.
- Gina Rinehart cut a 50/50 deal with mining company Rio Tinto to come in and actually, you know, mine the stuff at the Pilbara iron ore mine Hope Downs.
- Dolla dolla bill y’all
Of course, many entrepreneurs benefit from good luck and good luck parentage. Much like Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch inherited a small company and turned it into a huge one. But there was no equivalent for Murdoch of the global resources boom. Murdoch basically invented the modern tabloid newspaper and then foresaw the explosion in pay TV. It was about 20 per cent luck and 80 per cent legwork, craft and genius.
Even some of the Russian oligarchs who, following perestroika, were basically given huge state assets to go forth and exploit, had to put in some hard yards. Roman Abramovich, who runs Chelsea Football Club and Millhouse LLC (corporate slogan: ‘Everything’s Coming Up Millhouse!’), had an interesting early career and founded too many companies to count (many of them illegal).
The #1 factor in Rinehart’s wealth is hilariously good luck thanks to global macroeconomic forces. So my point is this: when it comes to advice on how to advance yourself, there is literally no-one else in Australia whose opinion you should be less interested in than Gina Rinehart. Of the 20 or so billionaires in Australia, there are none who relied anywhere near as much on pure dumb luck as Rinehart (except maybe James Packer).
Image by Paul J Gardner via Creative Commons Licence