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Top 10 Australian family businesses

From packaging to mining, to shopping mall empires and travel – CampdenFB takes a look at some of Australia's most impressive family businesses.

Company: Visy
Family: Pratt
Sector: Recycling and packaging
Revenue: AU$4.4 billion (US$3.4 billion)

Recycling and box-making tycoon Richard Pratt died five years ago, leaving behind his huge Visy empire. He had been responsible for expanding the business founded by his immigrant parents. Visy is now under the leadership of his son Anthony, and the family’s wealth is estimated at $7.64 billion. The Visy kingdom stretches far and wide, as shown by Pratt’s children.

For sure, Anthony is now the public face of this massive family business but his sisters Fiona Geminder and Heloise Waislitz are key stakeholders, each owning one-third of Visy. They also have big businesses, aside from their stakes in Visy. Fiona is married to Raphael Geminder, who has a 40 per cent stake in the Pact Group, Australia's largest plastic packaging manufacturer. Heloise is married to Alex Waislitz who, among other ventures, owns and runs the listed investment fund Thorney Opportunities.

Company: BGC
Family: Buckeridge
Sector: Construction and mining
Revenue: AU$2.8 billion

Construction company Buckeridge Group of Companies (BGC) was founded by Len Buckeridge who died last year at the age of 77. The businessman, who amassed an estimated $1.2 billion fortune, died at his desk in Perth, the city he helped build. Trained as an architect after arriving in Australia from the UK, Buckeridge founded BGC in 1960. It went on to build the Perth Arena, and was involved in the redevelopment of the Waca Ground sports stadium, the Western Australia Athletics Stadium, as well as large public facilities such as public hospitals and police stations.

The company, which has never disclosed profits, employs around 4,600 people, primarily in Western Australia. Buckeridge’s two sons, Andrew and Sam, are directors. Julian Ambrose, a stepson, is managing director.

Company: Linfox
Family: Fox
Sector: Transport and storage
Revenue: AU$2.6 billion

Lindsay Fox, 77, the founder of Australia’s largest privately-owned transport and logistics company Linfox, is worth $2.12 billion. But each of his five adult children now effectively run the day-to-day affairs of the family business. This includes its trucking operations, the Armaguard cash security business, commercial properties and developments, and the company’s stakes in Victoria’s Avalon and Essendon airports. Peter is executive chairman, David heads the group’s airports and Armaguard business, Andrew handles its property portfolio, while Lisa and Katrina are involved in marketing and other functions. There are 14 grandchildren, who could one day take over the business.

Company: Westfield
Family: Lowy
Sector: Real estate
Revenue: AU$2.4 billion

Four years ago, Frank Lowy, 83, stood down as executive chairman of Westfield, the global shopping centre empire and public company he founded and led for more than half a century, passing his empire on to the second generation. Two of his sons, Peter and Steven, are now Westfield Group's joint chief executives. Westfield has 103 shopping centres across Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Italy and Brazil, encompassing around 23,000 retail outlets. In the six months to 31 December, Westfield posted an after-tax profit of $US582.3 million, a 20.3 per cent lift on the previous corresponding period's $US484.1 million.
Another son, David, runs the family's private business investments. The patriarch set up the Lowy Private Group, which invests across asset classes and geographies. It provides for the wider Lowy family.

Company: Hancock Prospecting
Family: Rinehart
Sector: Mining
Revenue: AU$2.3 billion

Australian mining heiress Gina Rinehart, queen of the global iron-ore trade controls Hancock Prospecting, which now has oil and gas to its portfolio. In March 2014 she secured $7.2 billion in funding from a group of global banks and credit agencies to develop Roy Hill, one of the world's largest iron-ore mines; Hancock owns 70 per cent of that. Rinehart inherited her holdings from her late father, Lang Hancock.
What will happen in the transition to the next generation remains to be seen – she has been involved in a long-running well-publicised legal brawl with her children over ownership of assets. That will determine how much of the business passes over to the third generation. Profit from Gina Rinehart’s private mining group Hancock Prospecting fell from $3.25 billion to $489.7 million in 2012-13.

Company: Peregrine Corporation
Family: Shahin
Sector: Fuel, convenience and restaurants
Revenue: AU$1.42 billion

The South Australian-based fuel, convenience and restaurant operator was founded in 1984 by Fathi (Fred) Shahin who migrated to Australia from Lebanon. He started out with the purchase of a service station in Adelaide, South Australia. The company then expanded into cigarette retailing business with the establishment of Smokemart, which sells cigarettes, cigars, tobacco and related product and gifts. That was added to the 109 petrol service stations the company operates in South Australia. To further capitalise on the physical retail presence of the Smokemart sites, it started Giftbox in 1998. His son Yasser Shahin founded the On the Run convenience store brand operating across South Australia which is part of the Peregrine Corporation. Yasser’s brothers Khalil (Charlie) and Samer (Sam) are also heavily involved in the business.

Company: PFD Food Services
Family: Smith
Sector: Food distribution
Revenue: AU$1.4 billion

The story of the Smith family behind food distribution company PFD Services is every entrepreneur’s dream. Scottish born Richard Smith joined PFD as a driver and salesman in 1959. In a space of just 11 years, he rose to become general manager of the company. Five years later, in 1975, he bought a slice of the company and became co-owner with the billionaire Liberman family, taking full control in 1988. He has built the company into a massive empire, acquiring outfits like Australian Convenience Foods Group and Kosmos Foods Wholesalers. His three children sit on the board: Kerry is chief executive; Lindsay is responsible for developing emerging categories; and Sharon takes care of the company’s philanthropic activities.

Company: Hutchinson Builders
Family: Hutchinson
Sector: Construction
Revenue: AU$1.4 billion

Hutchinson Builders was founded by British immigrant Jack Hutchinson in 1912. The business went through tough times in the 1950s and early 1960s when the second generation of the family was running it. But in 1966, third-generation family member John Collins (Jack) Hutchinson joined the business. Many say he was the one who set things right. His son Scott Hutchinson, a member of its fourth generation, chairs the family company. Today, Hutchinson is one of Australia’s largest privately-owned construction companies. It engages in projects involved in commercial, high-rise residential, mining and industrial infrastructure. The company consistently reports top-line growth and in 2013, its net assets increased by 4.6 per cent to $186 million.

Company: Competitive Foods
Family: Cowin
Sector: Hospitality
Revenue: AU$1.06 billion

Competitive Foods, based in Perth, runs the Australian Burger King franchise under the name Hungry Jack’s. Its principal Jack Cowin also has significant investments in Domino’s Australia and Domino’s US. Cowin arrived in Australia from Canada in 1969 as an insurance salesman. He started out running Kentucky Fried Chicken businesses, which were subsequently sold. He is also chairman and a major shareholder in Domino's Pizza Enterprises. Cowin has three daughters, one son and 11 grandchildren. Competitive Foods Australia continues to be privately held by his family.

Company: Consolidated Travel
Family: Alysandratos
Sector: Travel
Revenue: AU$1.01 billion

Consolidated Travel was founded by Spiros Alysandratos who emigrated to Australia in 1959 from the island of Kefalonia in Greece. Founded in 1967, the company provides wholesale ticketing services to travel agencies. It also supplies the back office operations in Australia for a dozen smaller foreign airlines. Consolidated Travel lifted revenue by 9.6 per cent to $937 million. Alysandratos is chief executive of Consolidated Travel. His son Dennis runs the Victoria and Tasmania office and is also group general manager.

Source: Revenues figures provided by Family Business Australia.

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