Magnate backs Rinehart children in ‘battle of the billionaires’
Iron ore magnate Andrew Forrest has weighed into what is being billed as Australia's "battle of the billionaires" which pits the nation's richest person, Gina Rinehart (shown here) against her children over the family fortune
Two of Gina Rinehart's children have taken their mining mogul mother to court over the multi-billion dollar family trust at the centre of a long-running and bitter feud in which she is accused of acting deceitfully.
Rinehart's two eldest children, John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart, are pursuing their mother over her management of the family billions in a civil case which was set to begin in the Supreme Court in Sydney on Tuesday.
They had also been seeking her removal as head of the trust, set up by her late father Lang Hancock in 1988 and worth at least Aus$5 billion (US$4.7 billion), until she flagged last week that she intended to relinquish her role.
The hearing was delayed Tuesday after Rinehart's lawyers requested an adjournment to discuss the appointment of a new trustee.
But not before the sensational case, which has been followed closely by the Australian press, took a fresh twist, with Forrest -- founder of Fortescue Metals Group and worth an estimated US$5.7 billion according to Forbes -- emerged as a backer of Rinehart's children.
A packed courthouse heard that Forrest had sworn an affidavit supporting John Hancock as the trust's new chief, putting him at odds with long-time resources rival Rinehart, who opposes the appointment.
The contents of the affidavit are confidential and it was not clear how Forrest was connected to the case.
The acrimonious row stems from a family trust set up by Rinehart's father, Hancock, in 1988 with his four grandchildren as the beneficiaries.
Gina Rinehart was to run the trust, which holds a 23.4 percent slice of her iron ore company Hancock Prospecting, until the youngest grandchild turned 25 in 2011.
But just days before this date she allegedly sought to delay the payout until 2068, saying it would avoid a huge capital gains tax bill and prompting Hancock and sisters Bianca Rinehart and Hope Rinehart Welker to take court action.
Hope Welker later pulled out, but not before documents submitted to the court exposed the bitter battle within the family headed by Gina, whose fortune was estimated earlier this year by Forbes at US$17 billion.
Back-room negotiations were continuing late Tuesday on a compromise trustee, with Rinehart desiring a lineal descendant and reports tipping youngest daughter Ginia as her preference.
The case will return to court on Wednesday.
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