Richest ride a wave of wealth

Update Australia's top executives have seen their collective wealth swell by almost three-quarters - or about $15 billion - over the past year, easily outstripping gains by ordinary investors.
The total wealth of Australia's top 200 business chieftains ballooned to $35 billion in 2010, up from $20.3 billion in 2009, according to the BRW 2010 Executive Rich List. The rebound, though, left the total shy of the record $44 billion in 2007 - prior to the global financial crisis.
US-based media baron Rupert Murdoch defended his top spot, with wealth almost doubling in the year to nearly $6 billion from $3.4 billion a year earlier.
The combined wealth of Australian executives was 72 per cent higher than last year, more than the 52 per cent rise by the sharemarket over the same period.
''These guys have actually outperformed the market very well,'' said BRW executive rich list editor John Stensholt. ''Obviously their companies have done well but a lot of executives have executed some very canny share trades in the last year.''
Mr Stensholt said executive wealth had been aided by big capital raisings and retail offerings made through the year, as companies tapped investors for more cash following the plunges seen during the financial crisis.
Fortescue Metals Group chief Andrew Forrest came in second with $4.79 billion in wealth, also doubling his net worth from $2.37 billion a year earlier.
Media and entertainment mogul James Packer crept up a spot to No. 3 after the wealth from Consolidated Media Holdings was added to his Crown casino fortune in BRW's calculations. Mr Packer now has $3.4 billion, more than double the $1.54 billion a year ago.
Mr Packer relegated real estate magnate Frank Lowy to the No. 4 spot, with $2.16 billion, up from from $1.83 billion.
Top ranked woman Computershare director Penelope Maclagan maintained her No. 24 spot this year, with her fortune jumping to $182.7 million from $114.8 million. There were a total of six women on the list this year.

Gunns' Gay drops out

BRW said only eight people on the list saw their wealthy slump during the year, mostly because of share sales, rather then falling prices.

The best-known departure from the list is John Gay, chairman of timber and pulp-producer Gunns, who recently sold shares in the company that posted a 98 per cent first-half loss.

BRW said average shareholder wealth for executives was $174.7 million in 2010, up from $101.7 million.
Miners, bankers dominate
The resurgent stock market lifted the minimum cut-off level for inclusion in the list to $9.6 million this year, from $6.4 million last year. At the same time, the financial services sector reasserted its standing in this year's ranking, with 37 names, up from 27 last year. But the resources sector was the best-represented industry with 47 names in total.
Underscoring this is the return of Macquarie Group bankers to the rich list. Macquarie chief Nicholas Moore ranked No. 57 with $61.7 million, followed by Macquarie Capital group head Michael Carapiet who came in at No. 98, with holdings of $33.7 million.
In total, there are four Macquarie bankers in 2010 compared with two last year, BRW said.
''The bankers are back,'' said Mr Stensholt. ''The Millionaires Factory is cranking out more graduates.''
Mr Stensholt said nearly all the members of the 2010 Executive Rich list have seen their net worth increase this year.
A couple of high profile entrants include Myer managing director Bernie Brookes, who joined the list at No. 88 with $37.5 million, following the retailer's high-profile float.
The list draws on the top 200 executives of the top 500 publicly listed Australian companies, who are involved in the day-to-day operations.
The 2009 listing of online automotive sales site propelled chief executive Greg Roebuck to the No. 84 position with $38.7 million.

BRW is owned by Fairfax, publisher of this site.