Australia’s drinks industry billionaires

Six drinks industry billionaires have scored a spot on The Australian’s Richest 250 List, the biggest annual study of the country’s wealthiest individuals.

Final wealth figures were calculated in late February 2022 and revealed the average wealth among the 250 was $2.08billion, with 131 billionaires on the list.

There were seven rich listers who’ve made their fortunes from booze on the list, with an additional three billionaires who dabble in the industry.

1. Bruce Mathieson – ALH Group

Australia’s richest drinks player came in at No.38 on the list – founder of ALH Group Bruce Mathieson. Mathieson’s fortune is estimated at $2.5billion, up from $2.4billion last year. Mathieson bought his first hotel in 1975, and has since bought and sold more than 9000 around Australia. His biggest current investment is Endeavour Group, his joint venture with Woolworths ALH Group that was spun out as a separately listed company last year. While Mathieson’s son Bruce Jnr stepped down as Managing Director of Hotels at the company last year, Mathieson remains Endeavour’s biggest shareholder and sits on its board as a non-executive director.

2. John, Marcello and Guiseppe Casella – Casella Family Brands

The Casella brothers came in at No.62 on the list with a combined $1.9billion fortune, up from $1.54billion last year. They own Australia’s biggest family wine business, which posted its biggest turnover and sales volumes in its six decade history last year. Casella’s Yellow Tail is the most popular imported wine in the US, with a revenue of almost $520 million and a profit of close to $50 million last year. Aside from Yellow Tail, the business has labels including Peter Lehmann, Baileys of Glenrowan and Morris. Morris also launched its own whisky last year.

3. Arthur Laundy & family – Laundy Hotels

At No.88 on the list, the Laundy family has a $1.46billion fortune, up from $1.45billion last year. Among Laundy’s pub purchases in the last year alone are the Lennox Hotel near Byron Bay for $40 million; the $28 million purchase of a hotel across the road from his Bass Hill headquarters in Sydney; and $38 million for the Bayview Hotel on the NSW Central Coast. Laundy also owns about 30 hotels and venues around NSW, adding the Mercure Hotel in Port Macquarie to the list this month. The group’s first pub was the Sackville Hotel, which Laundy’s late father Arthur Snr and mother Veronica took over in 1945.

4. Justin Hemmes & family – Chief executive, Merivale

Sitting at No.101 on the Rich List, Hemmes has a $1.31billion fortune, up from $1.24billion last year. Merivale has more than 80 venues under its banner, the latest acquisition being Lynch’s Hotel, one of the oldest and most historic buildings in Narooma, which is the company’s fourth venture on the NSW South Coast. The jewel in the Merivale crown is the Ivy complex on George Street, Sydney, while Hemmes last year spent almost $80 million buying a Melbourne CBD laneway property and the coastal Lorne Hotel.

5. Sandy Oatley & family – Chairman, Balmoral Australia

At No.114, Oatley has a fortune of $1.15billion, up from $1.07billion last year. Oatley is the son of the late Bob Oatley, who built a business empire spanning tourism, property, wine and other investments. The family’s Balmoral Australia owns Hamilton Island, Robert Oatley Vineyards, a fine wine distribution business and Woolwich Dock on Sydney Harbour. Bob Oatley founded Rosemount Winery in 1969 and sold it 2001 to Treasury Wine Estates for $1.4 billion. Sandy Oatley chairs the family business, working alongside siblings Ian and Rosalind on the Balmoral board.

6. Theo Karedis & family – Co-founder, Theo’s Liquor and Arkadia Property Group

At No.115, Karedis has a fortune of $1.14billion, up from $1.13billion last year. The Karedis family fortune stems from the Theo’s chain of bottle shops sold to Coles in 2002. These days, the Karedis’ wealth is tied to property through their Arkadia investment company.

7. John Singleton – Owner, John Singleton Promotions

Former ad man John Singleton sits at No.180 with $714million, up from $711million last year. Singleton was formerly a big player in the pub market – establishing the Australian Pub Fund with former Qantas boss Geoff Dixon and investment banker Mark Carnegie and growing it to a $300 million portfolio before divesting most of the assets as pub values began to soar. However, he has been buying up hospitality assets on the Central Coast in recent years, including the Elanora Hotel in East Gosford for $25million.

Other players on the list with drinks interests include Marc Besen and family at No.44 with $2.45billion. Besen’s fortune comes from property but he owns the TarraWarra winery and art museum in Victoria’s Yarra Valley. At No.48 is the owner of Voyager Estate, Alexandra Burt, with $2.8billion, whose fortune comes from iron ore royalties.

There’s also Dick Honan, Chairman of Manildra Group, at No.152 with $868million. While Manildra is famed for its flour, it’s also a big player in the ethanol space, providing the product to many distilleries around Australia.

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