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Who Wants To Be A Billionaire?

Darren Connell|Senior Producer, CNBC Asia Pacific
Monday, 25 Oct 2010 | 6:58 AM ET

Nathan Tinkler seems like your average man. He’s a trained electrician, with a young family, and has a passion for racing and V8 super cars. But this 34-year-old is not your everyday Australian. With a personal fortune of A$610 million ($596 million) earned in the space of just a few years, Nathan Tinkler is on track to becoming Australia’s youngest and fastest-ever self-made billionaire.

Trainer Nathan Tinkler looks on during the Cox Plate Breakfast With The Best trackwork at Moonee Valley on October 21, 2008 in Melbourne, Australia
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Trainer Nathan Tinkler looks on during the Cox Plate Breakfast With The Best trackwork at Moonee Valley on October 21, 2008 in Melbourne, Australia

This rags-to-riches tale, highlights how the mining boom is changing lives and creating a new generation of super wealthy in Australia. As a teenager, Tinkler left his small hometown of Inverell and made his way to the coal rich mines of the Hunter Valley. There he earned A$400 per week working as an apprentice electrician, before starting his own business servicing the mines.

But Tinkler was hungry for bigger things. In 2004, he saw an opportunity in a small unwanted Queensland coal mine. Tinkler was convinced it was a winner. He sold his house and business to raise a A$1 million dollar non-refundable deposit. However, he still needed another $29 million to finance the deal. He didn’t have a cent left and only had a month to pay the next installment.

“I knocked on every door in Australia and many overseas to raise the funds. Finally I succeeded after wearing out a lot of shoe leather, ” he said.

The effort was worthwhile. Drilling returned high-grade coal samples. Investors rushed on board and within six months, the mine was valued at $400 million. Tinkler had struck it rich, but his fortunes were just the beginning.

The freshly minted millionaire and his partners sold their shares in the mine to Macarthur Coal. Tinkler became the second - largest shareholder in the company, with 22 million shares acquired at around A$8 each. But he didn’t see eye - to - eye with the management. He soon wanted out of the company and steel making giant Arcelor Mittal was happy to help.

"I knocked on every door in Australia and many overseas to raise the funds. Finally I succeeded after wearing out a lot of shoe leather." -on his road to success, Nathan Tinkler

They offered him A$20 for each share he owned in Macarthur; and Tinkler had secured another big deal. In just 18 months, he had turned his A$1 million deposit, into a personal fortune worth A$445 million. And the deals haven’t stopped there, Tinkler has remained on the lookout for undervalued mines through a number of enterprises.

“I have plans to develop the infrastructure around the mining industry as well as developing more minerals assets the team and myself have identified,” he said.

He’s also used his newfound financial clout to purchase some big-ticket toys. He has the jet and helicopter. He’s poured millions into a thoroughbred racing and breeding farm in the Hunter Valley. He’s purchased an A-league soccer club in Newcastle and taken a 50 percent stake in a V8 racing team. All this achieved with no formal qualifications except a trade certificate from New South Wales vocational instititute TAFE. At just 34 years of age, Nathan Tinkler may just be on track to rewriting the rules on how to become a billionaire.