Mediation rejected between Australia’s richest woman and her children0
An Australian judge rejected a request on Wednesday for mediation Sydney between one of the world’s richest women and her three children in a dispute over a multi-billion dollar family trust, saying there was little chance of a settlement.
Reuters reported the case, which is being heard by the New South Wales Supreme Court, is an unwelcome distraction for mining magnate Gina Rinehart as she is currently trying to to secure funding for a $10 billion iron ore mine.
The case also brings more unwanted public scrutiny to Rinehart, a public figure who has become more vocal on policy matters, saying things like “Australian miners should work more like Africans, who are happy making two dollars a day.”
Rinehart’s three eldest children, John Hancock, Bianca Rinehart and Hope Welker, are seeking to oust their mining magnate mother as trustee of the multi-million dollar family trust. Hope Rinehart Welker, Bianca Rinehart and John Hancock sued their 58-year-old mother in Australian state court last September, accusing her of misconduct by threatening their financial ruin and breach of trust.
They claim she acted “deceitfully” and with “gross dishonesty” in her dealings with the trust, set up in 1988 by her father Lang Hancock, with her children being the beneficiaries. They want her removed as trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, which holds 23.45 percent of the voting shares of Hancock Prospecting Pty and may be worth as much as $4.5 billion.
Rinehart is supported by her youngest daughter, Ginia, in the bitter family battle. The court has heard Ms Rinehart contacted her three elder children in early September 2011, days before Ginia turned 25, when the trust was due to vest.
Rinehart warned her children the vesting of the trust on September 6 would render them liable for a substantial amount of capital gains tax and lead to their bankruptcy.
Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd is developing what would be Australia’s fourth-largest iron ore mine and generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year in royalties from rich iron ore tenements secured by Ginia Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock, a legendary figure in Australian mining history.
The dispute has already caused a delay at Hancock’s flagship Roy Hill iron ore mine, rail and port project in Western Australia, which is now running into some stiff headwinds from slowing China demand and soaring costs.
A halving in iron ore prices over the past year has dented both investor appetite for such projects and the 58-year-old widow’s fortune, estimated by Forbes in February at around $18 billion. Hancock is currently trying to raise about $7 billion in debt funding to get the massive project into production.
It is not clear what impact, if any, the removal of Rinehart as trustee of the family trust would have on Hancock Prospecting and its iron ore, coal and media empire, but few lawyers following the case see a possible dispute resolution Sydney in future litigation between family members. Shares in the company can only be held by Rinehart and her direct descendants and cannot be pledged as collateral.