Graeme Hart No 1 Kiwi on world rich list

CLAIRE ROGERS AND AAP
Last updated 05:00 06/03/2013
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Fairfax NZ
GRAEME HART: The packaging empire king is back at No 1 after being usurped by Russian steel magnate Alexander Abramov last year.

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Three Kiwis have made it into Forbes magazine's rich list again this year, but the billionaires' rankings have all taken a tumble.

Packaging empire king Graeme Hart is the highest homegrown achiever on the roll-call of the world's 1426 wealthiest people - coming in at 229 with a net worth of US$5.3 billion (NZ$6.4b).

Mr Hart, 57, ranked at 178 on the rich list last year.

A former panel beater and truck driver who left school at 16, he now owns the world's largest packaging company, Reynolds Group, after a series of acquisitions.

But the company has amassed massive debt - reported by Forbes to be more than US$18b (NZ$21.6) - financing those acquisitions, and has been scrambling to pay it down.

Mr Hart's New Zealand residence is a $30 million clifftop mansion in Glendowie, Auckland, and in 2011 he paid $20m for a Colorado estate overlooking Aspen skifields. He is also understood to own two superyachts; the 77-metre-long Weta and the 57-metre Ulysses, which Forbes said was reportedly for sale.

The other Kiwis on the list are billionaire brothers Richard and Christopher Chandler, ranked 502 and 1342 respectively.

The brothers, who grew up in the Waikato, made their money investing in emerging markets through their former company Sovereign Global Investment - set up with proceeds from the sale of their parents' department store.

The pair split their multibillion-dollar fortune and went their separate ways in 2006.

Richard, 54, and worth US$2.85b (NZ$3.4b), according to Forbes, now lives in Singapore and runs the Richard Chandler Corporation - which invests in distressed investments in a range of sectors, including energy and the environment and healthcare.

Christopher, 53 and worth US$1b (NZ$1.2b), founded the private, multibillion-dollar investment firm Legatum - which invests in capital markets and companies in developing countries.

Forbes said Mexico's Carlos Slim remained the world's richest man for the fourth year in a row - with a net worth of US$73b.

The average net worth of the record 1426 billionaires was US$3.8b (NZ$4.6b), rising 3 per cent from 2012. They had an aggregate net worth of US$5.4 trillion, up from $4.6t last year.

There were 210 new billionaires.

The US lead again with 442 billionaires, followed by Asia-Pacific (386), Europe (366), the Americas (129) and the Middle East & Africa (103), Forbes said.

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Microsoft's Bill Gates held on to second place with net worth of US$67b. Third was Spanish clothier Amancio Ortega with net worth of US$57b, then Warren Buffett with US$53.5b.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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