The secretive families behind some of Australia’s best known brands

The secretive families behind some of Australia’s best known brands

PUBLISHED: 2 HOURS 45 MINUTES AGO | UPDATE: 0 HOUR 0 MINUTES AGO

Despite choosing to run their $2.3 billion plumbing business as a listed company, the Wilson family are never photographed and rarely interviewed.

ANDREW HEATHCOTE

Would you recognise a member of one of the country’s richest families if you walked past them in the street? Probably not. That’s because they are a highly private group who work hard at staying that way. Self-made billionaires like Clive Palmer and Gerry Harvey may speak freely and develop prominent public profiles, but for wealthy families, ownership can be split across dozens of people, each with their own expectations and egos. Tensions mount quickly when one relation is seen to be speaking on behalf of another. Unwritten rules dictate that people from rich families keep their mouths shut. But many of the richest people you have never heard of are responsible for well-known brands. Here are some of them:

CAROMA TOILETS

Toilet makers the Anderson family have almost no public profile. They are major shareholders in GWA, a listed supplier of household fixtures and fittings. Among the brands in the GWA stable is Caroma, distributors of bathroom necessities including baths, basins and toilets.

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Anderson family net wealth: $335 million.

REECE PLUMBING

Despite choosing to run their Reece plumbing business as a listed company, leading members of the Wilson family are never photographed and rarely interviewed. Peter Wilson is Reece’s chief executive and son of company chairman, Alan Wilson. Alan’s brothers Bruce and John are also directors. Reece is a $2.3 billion company. The family’s fondness for secrecy has attracted criticism from corporate governance experts but investors in Reece rarely complain – under the Wilsons’ leadership, Reece shares have risen 23 per cent over the past 12 months.

Wilson family net wealth: $1.83 billion.

LILYDALE FREE-RANGE CHICKENS

Wealthy families have long dominated the poultry market and the Baiada family is among the sector’s biggest players.

Baiada Poultry turns over $1.3 billion a year. It is run by third-generation poultry farmer Simon Camilleri, who took over from his brother John in 2011.

Among the family’s chicken brands are premium brand Lilydale, which sells free-range chicken meat in supermarkets including Coles.

Baiada Poultry became a much bigger company in 2009 when it merged with major rival Steggles.

Baiada family net wealth: $490 million.

JJ Richards & Sons rubbish trucks

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Rubbish collection has all the hallmarks of a “rich family” industry – low profile, capital intensive and highly lucrative. The Richards family have been carting other people’s rubbish since 1932.

JJ Richards is run by low-profile family member John Richards, who is a grandson of the founder.

Consolidation in the sector has left JJ Richards & Sons as one of the biggest remaining companies. It turned over $544 million last year.

Richards family net wealth: $390 million.

Lavazza coffee

The Valmorbida family made their fortune by importing a range of foods popular with post-war migrants, the best known of these being Lavazza coffee.

In a rare interview, John Valmorbida recently explained his father Carlo’s business strategy to BRW.

“My father was providing the Italian community with the food that they had left behind. His genius was that he understood that Australians would eventually eat those products as well.”

Valmorbida family net wealth: $310 million.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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