Australia's 'Warren Buffett' Also Plans to Give It All Away
Andrew Forrest isn't right up there with Warren Buffett at the pinnacle of world-class, hard-to-imagine, incredible wealth. But he's a lot closer to those dizzying heights than most of us.
Forrest has been described as a "quintessential Aussie bloke, just as happy to say g'day to the garbage man as the prime minister." He also happens to be the richest person in Australia.
Forrest, who goes by the wonderful nickname 'Twiggy', has a fortune of about $8 billion, built not in lumber, but in mining.
Forrest's company, Fortescue Metals, used to be a penny stock. Now it calls itself "the new force in iron ore," a commodity that's in big demand in China and other fast-growing economies.
There's no indication Forrest is consciously following in Buffett's footsteps, but he does plan to give it all away before he dies. And his distaste for wealth and what comes along with it, sounds a lot like something you'd hear around Omaha.
According to The Australian newspaper, Forrest recently told reporters:
"I don't aspire to great wealth and I don't admire it and I don't intend to leave this earth as a rich man. I intend to give it away... I have a philosophy (about wealth) and that is that it doesn't do much for you. I know very wealthy people who have survived and become good guys despite their wealth but I also know many others around the world who haven't."
He hasn't said who's getting the money, although he has been active in Aboriginal causes, including a recent plan to help the private sector create 50,000 jobs for the country's original inhabitants.
Forrest's intention to shed his wealth is not brand-new. In another quote that could have been taken straight from Buffett, he reportedly told an Australian newspaper last year, "What all my kids know is that they're not going to inherit it and they're happy about that."
But for those of us who don't follow Australia's super-wealthy population day-by-day, it is fresh evidence that Buffett and Bill Gates are not the only global billionaires trying to avoid the ignominious fate (to some) of dying rich.
Robert Frank, who writes The Wealth Report blog for WSJ.com, thinks Forrest just might inspire "an entire new generation of philanthropists who force their children to actually work for a living."
Whether the money will last that long is another question. Fortescue Metals stock price has been cut by more than a third over the last few weeks as short-sellers question forecasts of big iron-ore shortages for years to come.
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