SYDNEY: Australian self-made coal baron Nathan Tinkler has gone from being the nation’s youngest billionaire to officially bankrupt in just five years, capping a dramatic fall from grace after he failed to appeal a court order.
Tinkler, a larger-than-life character who spent millions on sporting clubs and horse racing, making enemies along the way, apologised Thursday to creditors and his family, while telling a newspaper that “I can hear the champagne corks popping in the background”.
The 40-year-old started out in the mining industry as an electrician before building up his wealth on a series of canny coal transactions.
He made it to the top of Australia’s young rich list with a personal fortune of Aus$1.13 billion in 2011, equivalent of around the same amount in US dollars at the time.
His immense wealth saw him buy into two national sporting franchises, the national rugby league’s Newcastle Knights and A-League football club the Newcastle Jets, as well as a large thoroughbred stud.
But as coal prices collapsed in the following years, Tinkler — who quit his native Newcastle, north of Sydney, for Singapore in 2012 — found himself under growing financial pressure.
He sold the Knights and his thoroughbred breeding and racing empire in 2014 and was stripped of his Jets ownership last year.
Tinkler was taken to the Federal Court by GE Commercial over a US$2.25 million debt from a private jet, with a judge ruling on February 9 that a sequestration order be made against his estate.
The order came into force this week after Tinkler failed to appeal the decision, which was stayed for 21 days.
“I would like to apologise to the creditors and my family,” Tinkler told the Sydney Morning Herald, quipping that he might have more success as an anti-coal campaigner.
“I might become an activist and have the full support of the government and the media and have no responsibility.”
He added to the Newcastle Herald that “I can hear the champagne corks popping in the background”.
Tinkler’s bankruptcy trustee John Melluish told AFP Tinkler had only disclosed two assets, “negligible” cash in a bank and one property.
“It means that our investigations will start potentially into assets that he might have owned once that he might have disposed of or assets that he’s given away over a period of time,” Melluish said.
“I hope to meet with Mr Tinkler next week some time.”