John Stensholt on his final AFR Rich List: 12 new arrivals for 2018

• Media no longer a key to wealth creation… it’s all about property

This is the final edition of the Rich List to be edited by John Stensholt. The longtime Fairfax Media journalist first edited what was then the BRW Rich List in 2008. The BRW brand is nowhere to be seen this year after the list last year was branded The AFR Rich List for the first time, after 33 years under the BRW banner.

Stensholt hasn’t worked on the Rich List every year, but he has done eight of the last 11.

The AFR Magazine Rich List edition this year is also available on newsstands for a month as well as being part of today’s Australian Financial Review newspaper.

John Stensholt

Although collecting and analysing the data remains a daunting task, Stensholt told Mediaweek rich folk cooperate now more than they ever have in the past. “You might be surprised just how much cooperation we actually get. It’s all on background of course and off the record. About 85% of people on the list engage with us every year. We call them and talk to them, they send us emails and we exchange all sorts of information. They would never admit it publicly, but they do it.”

The Rich List members know and trust the brand that has respected their financial details for 35 years.

Property remains the best way to get on the list with 51 of 200 linked to it as their major wealth creator. “Many more on the list would also see it as a secondary contributor to their wealth,” said Stensholt.

Some people make money in other sectors and then parlay it into property, which they see as something of a safe haven.

When asked about the media sector, Stensholt agreed it is no longer a fast track to wealth. “The days of media barons dominating the sector have gone, although Kerry Stokes remains a significant player and his wealth has gone up a fair bit to $4.93b and he sits at #13 on our list. Increasingly though, his wealth comes from mining via WesTrac and also Coates Hire.”

Rupert Murdoch doesn’t qualify for the list as he is a US citizen.

Another media player on the list is Patrick Groves, who co-founded iflix in Asia.

Investors still with significant media interest include John Singleton and Bruce Gordon.

The Australian moved to poach Melbourne-based Stensholt earlier this year and he starts there in two months.

Could The Australian be about to start its own wealth list? Stensholt wasn’t about to reveal that to Mediaweek. However, he did tell us he would be covering sports business at his new home, something that has become a must-read under his by-line at The AFR.

One of the highlights of what is always essential reading this year is some of the feature articles and photo sessions with rich list members. Stensholt noted the four members of the Lowy family aren’t often together. Also quite a coup is a session with the three co-founders of Flight Centre, two of whom stopped working in the business 20 years ago.

Rich List 2018 highlights:

• It remains a pretty hard club to become a member of – just 12 new entrants this year. “The bar keeps getting set higher. We have found a few new people over the past few years. It is always a challenge to find new names. People don’t like falling of that list – they don’t easily lose their wealth these days. There hasn’t been a stock market or property crash to upset fortunes.”

• “Not everyone cooperates and their financial data can be very hard to find,” said Stensholt. One person he had in mind was Tasmania’s David Walsh, professional gambler and the owner of the Mona Gallery. “He’s probably rich enough, but it is difficult to figure out just how wealthy.”

• Part of the challenge is keeping track of wealthy people who become Australian citizens. “That is not something that is advertised very widely. Given the immigration boom I expect that could happen a lot more in the future,” said Stensholt.

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