By Tony Field
Russian billionaire Alexander Abramov and filmmaker James Cameron are among the new entrants to the 2012 National Business Review rich list.
NBR has decided to broaden this year’s list to include people who have invested money in New Zealand to earn residency rights.
Abramov is currently building his luxury home on New Zealand’s northern coastline, at a cost of up to $40 million and now, the Russian minerals and steel mogul is also making a mark on the rich list.
“He is one of the Russian oligarchs and no one really knows how they made their money, except through the huge privatisations that occurred in the '80s and '90s in Russia” says NBR editor in chief Nevil Gibson. “These people are mega-wealthy.”
Wealthy and, it seems, looking for safe places to invest.
“New Zealand is very good. It is about as far away from Moscow as you can get and there is no one going to take it off him as has happened to a lot of people who have invested in Russia,” says Mr Gibson.
Number two on the list is New Zealander Graeme Hart, valued at $6 billion, followed by Richard Chandler – born in New Zealand but raised in Singapore – valued at $5 billion.
American investor Julian Robertson ($3 billion) and the Todd family ($2.7 billion) round out the top five.
Robertson, who has gifted an entire wing to the Auckland Art Gallery, and Abramove are among a group of people born overseas, but who have adopted New Zealand as a second home.
People like Dowager duchess Henrietta Bedford, a horse breeder who is the richest woman on the list, and filmmaker Cameron.
“All of them have New Zealand residency. James Cameron was one, they are buying big assets, they are investing heavily in New Zealand,” says Mr Gibson.
There are 157 rich listers this year – 96 men, five women, 47 families and nine couples. They are collectively worth $57.7 billion.
The top nine on the list are worth at least $1 billion each – wealth that comes mainly from investing, property, manufacturing, finance, wine and horticulture.
But what of Lotto winner Trevor Cooper?
Even with his $26 million windfall, Cooper falls a long way short of the last person on the list: Prime Minister John Key, whose wealth dropped from $55 million to an estimated $50 million.
The top 10:
1. Alexander Abramov ($7 billion)
2. Graeme Hart ($6 billion)
3. Richard Chandler ($5 billion)
4. Julian Robertson ($3 billion)
5. Todd Family ($2.7 billion)
6. Christopher Chandler ($1.5 billion)
6 = William (Bill) Foley ($1.5 billion)
8. Eamon Cleary ($1.2 billion)
9. Dowager Duchess Henrietta Bedford ($1 billion)
10. Goodman family ($950 million)
View the full National Business Review Rich List