Murdoch no longer BRW's richest executive

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest has wrestled the top spot in this year's BRW Executive Rich list from Rupert Murdoch after growing his wealth to $6.2 billion this year on the back of the resources boom.

Mr Murdoch has clung to the No.1 position for the past two years, but earnings from his News Corp shares remained relatively flat during the year, sliding to $5.7 billion from almost $6 billion.

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The BRW top 10 richest executives
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James Packer from Crown and Consolidated Media Holdings maintained third place with $3.6 billion compared with $3.4 billion last year.

The list includes the top 200 executives of the top 500 publicly listed Australian companies who involved in the day-to-day management of the company and is based on the amount of shares they have in the respective companies they manage.

While the media sector was well represented in the top 10, BRW Rich list editor, Andrew Heathcote, said its overall fortunes were no match for the mining sector, with 81 of the top 200 involved in resources or mining services compared with 56 last year.

"I think this demonstrates the added growth in resources and the fact that more executives are identifying opportunities and getting better at maximising their own wealth. Pretty much anyone in resources did well while everyone else was flat or down on last year. People talk a lot about the two-speed economy and it's pretty evident that is happening in a pretty strong way," Heathcote said.

Sitting at the helm of the Fortescue Metals Group,Mr  Forrest may have topped this year's list, but still faces the possibility of being banned from running his company following a six-year battle with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. On the other hand, if an appeal lodged against the Federal Court ruling succeeds, his earnings could swell substantially.

"If iron ore demand stays strong and Fortescue is able to keep investors happy, Forrest's wealth could go beyond the $10 billion mark," Heathcote said.

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Kerry Stokes rose to fourth position with $1.8 billion in executive wealth, boosted by a reorganisation of his business, while Australia's richest man Frank Lowy took 5th position with $1.8 billion worth of Westfield shares.

Total executive wealth remained relatively flat at $35 billion, compared with the record $44 billion in 2007, which preceded the global financial crisis.

However the cut-off figure rose 30 per cent to $12.5 million, with 55 executives from last year's list failing to make it this year.

Chris Morris from Computershare and former Virgin Blue boss Brett Godfrey were notably absent, while Sylviu Itescu, the scientist who sits at the helm of biotech company Mesoblast made a surprise entry at No.12 on the list with $72.4 million in earnings.

Heathcote said the representation of women on the list also fell this year, with only four female executives compared with five last year.

They included Katie Page from Harvey Norman with $51 million in company shares and Gail Kelly from Westpac with $33 million.

"We talk about compulsory quotas on boards but a lot more needs to be done to get women in to these positions," he said.

BRW is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this site.

 

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