This article may be weighted too heavily toward only one aspect of its subject.April 2019)(
John Andrew Henry Forrest
5 July 1961
|Alma mater||University of Western Australia|
|Occupation||Non-executive chairman, Fortescue Metals Group|
With an assessed net worth of A$23.00 billion according to the Financial Review 2020 Rich List, Forrest was ranked as the second richest Australian. According to the Financial Review, Forrest was the richest person in Australia in 2008. Forbes assessed Forrest's net worth as US$4.30 billion on the 2019 list of Australia's 50 richest people.
In 2013, Andrew and Nicola Forrest, his wife, were the first Australians to pledge the majority of their wealth to charity in their lifetimes. He had earlier stepped down as CEO of Fortescue Metals in 2011. Much of the Forrest's philanthropy has been through either the Minderoo Foundation (focusing on education and Indigenous Australians) or the Walk Free Foundation (focusing on ending modern slavery), both of which he established. Forrest has been accused of avoiding paying company tax, having revealed in 2011 that Fortescue had never paid company tax.
Forrest was born in Perth, Western Australia, the youngest of three children of Judith (née Fry) and Donald Forrest. His father, grandfather (Mervyn), and great-grandfather (David) were all managers of Minderoo Station, which David had established in 1878 with his brothers, Alexander and John. John, Alexander, David, and Mervyn were all members of parliament for periods, with John serving as Western Australia's first premier. Forrest's early years were spent at Minderoo, located in the Pilbara region south of Onslow. Minderoo was owned by the Forrest family until it was sold in 1998 by his father due to relentless drought and debt, but it was bought back by Forrest in 2009.
Forrest was educated at Onslow Primary School and through the School of the Air before moving to Perth to attend Christ Church Grammar School and then Hale School. He stuttered as a child, which is how he came to develop a relationship with Ian Black, whose Aboriginal father, Scotty, became Forrest's mentor. Forrest went on to the University of Western Australia where he majored in economics and politics.
In 1991 Forrest married Nicola Maurice, daughter of Tony Maurice who was a major figure in the Australian League of Rights white-supremacist Christian organisation. Nicola's sister, Katrina, is the wife of David Thompson who was the leader of the New Zealand League of Rights in the early 1980s and the leader of the Australian League of Rights during the 1990s. Forrest and David Thompson became friendly associates with Forrest appointing Thompson to a managerial role while he was on the board at Anaconda Nickel.
After graduating, he worked as a stockbroker at the brokerage houses Kirke Securities and Jacksons. In his early 30s, he became the founding CEO of Anaconda Nickel (now Minara Resources), which has since grown to be one of Australia's single largest mineral exporters with its Murrin Murrin Joint Venture nickel project.
In 2003, he took control of Allied Mining and Processing and renamed it Fortescue Metals Group. He is still a major shareholder of FMG, through his private company, The Metal Group. Since then, the company has grown to possess three times the tenements of its nearest rival in Western Australia's iron ore rich Pilbara region. Fortescue holds major deposits at Mount Nicholas, Christmas Creek, Cloudbreak, and Tongolo. In 2007, he took an interest and a directorship in Niagara Mining Limited, renamed Poseidon Nickel Limited, which had in 2006 acquired from WMC the Windara nickel deposits near Laverton, Western Australia.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission took legal action against FMG and Forrest. Although an initial ruling by Justice John Gilmour in 2009 found Forrest hadn't acted in a misleading or deceptive manner, Chief Justice Patrick Keane and judges Arthur Emmett and Raymond Finkelstein of the Federal Court of Australia overturned this decision in 2011, finding that FMG and its Chairman and CEO, Andrew Forrest, had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and breached the continuous disclosure provisions in the Corporations Act, 2001 (Cth), by claiming to have binding contracts with China.
The court found that a Chinese framework agreement does not amount to a binding contract, in the natural meaning of the word. If found to have breached director's duties, Forrest faced the possibility of being banned as a director of an ASIC-listed company. FMG appealed against the decision, and in October 2012, the High Court found in favour of FMG and Forrest, reversing the decision of the full bench of the Federal Court and agreeing with the original 2009 decision by Justice Gilmour.
Forrest described the Gillard Government proposed Minerals Resource Rent Tax as "economic vandalism" and a "mad dog's breakfast" that would drive up foreign resource ownership. He stated he would challenge it in the High Court as being unconstitutional, as it discriminates against states, and fails to appropriately capture big producers BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. WA premier Colin Barnett has stated the state government would back constitutional action, admitting the tax had been suggested to him as a "sovereign risk". He was highly critical of the government's expenditure of $38M on an advertising campaign, that was not approved using the usual processes, as it had to "counter mining industry 'spin' about the resources super profits tax".
The treasurer Wayne Swan says the big miners will pay at least A$2 billion tax, and wrote to the head of BDO Accounting, who modelled the claims Forrest used, noting they were "utterly unrealistic" and riddled with errors. Treasury concurred that they would be unable to release the assumptions underpinning its forecasts, as they were based on confidential information provided by the big miners. Gillard struck a deal with BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata to develop the MRRT. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie requested the government take Forrest's mining tax grievance to heart.
After buying back the family property, Minderoo Station in 2009 Forrest acquired the adjoining properties, Nanutarra and Uaroo Stations in 2014, increasing his total pastoral holdings in the Pilbara to 7,300 square kilometres (2,819 sq mi). In August 2015 he acquired both Brick House Station and Minilya Station for an estimated A$10 million, bringing his total pastoral holdings to over 10,000 square kilometres (3,861 sq mi).
Forrest acquired meat processing company Harvey Beef in May 2014 for A$40 million. The biggest exporter of beef in Western Australia, it was until August 2014 the only one accredited to export to China.
In June 2011, Allied Medical, of which Forrest owned 46%, was acquired by BioMD for over A$20 million.
Forrest is well-connected in political, business, and sporting circles. Forrest is an adjunct professor at the Chinese Southern University, a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, has an Australian Centenary Medal and Australian Sports Medal, and was awarded the 2017 Western Australian of the Year Award, and the 2018 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Alumni Social Impact Award. He a former director of Australia's Export Finance and Insurance Corporation and the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, and former chairman of Athletics Australia. Forrest has previously addressed the Queensland University of Technology, and Christians in the Marketplace.
In 2017 Forrest was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the mining sector, to the development of employment and business opportunities, as a supporter of sustainable foreign investment, and to philanthropy.
Forrest owns the 58.2-metre (191 ft) yacht Pangaea (named after the supercontinent that existed between 335 million and 175 million years ago). Built by US shipyard Halter Marine in 1999, the yacht is registered in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
In 2008 Forrest appeared on the BRW Rich 200 list, with a net worth of A$9.41 billion, with the title of the richest person in Australia. In subsequent years, his wealth has varied significantly as a result of variances in Australian resources sector prices. His net worth, according to the Financial Review 2017 Rich List was A$6.84 billion, ranking him as the sixth wealthiest Australian. With an assessed net worth of A$23.00 billion according to the Financial Review 2020 Rich List, Forrest was ranked as the second richest Australian. Forbes assessed Forrest's net worth as US$4.30 billion on the 2019 list of Australia's 50 richest people.
Australia's 40 Richest
|Rank||Net worth (A$)||Rank||Net worth (US$)|
|2014||7||$5.86 billion||$5.00 billion|
|2015||9||$2.83 billion||10||$2.10 billion|
|2016||8||$3.33 billion||22||$1.24 billion|
|2017||6||$6.84 billion||6||$4.40 billion|
|2019||8||$7.99 billion||7||$4.30 billion|
|Has not changed from the previous year|
|Has increased from the previous year|
|Has decreased from the previous year|
"We hope to help empower individuals and families currently suffering the despair of poverty, slavery and the lack of opportunity for themselves and their children. We feel that if we all do whatever we can with whatever we have, large or small, then each of us will help make our world a more equitable and positive environment for others to thrive in."— Andrew and Nicola Forrest, February 2013
After stepping down as Chief Executive Officer of FMG, Forrest noted that he had been spending more than 50% of his time on Indigenous philanthropy. Forrest became an ambassador for the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation. Encouraged by the philanthropy of the Rockefeller Group, Warren Buffett, and Melinda and Bill Gates, Andrew and Nicola Forrest established the Australian Children's Trust in 2001.
Through the influence of Scotty Black, Forrest started the GenerationOne project, with assistance from James Packer and Kerry Stokes, who each donated A$2 million, along with the support of their respective media stations, Channel 9 and Channel 7. GenerationOne and the Australian Children's Trust help to create sustainable solutions on addressing social disadvantage. With Kevin Rudd, Forrest launched the Australian Employment Covenant, that campaigned for businesses to hire Indigenous Australians, as they could "add value" to Australian businesses because they were "professional and reliable and wonderful" and that there is no reason for Indigenous disparity. GenerationOne ran a series of television advertisements privately funded by Forrest, Packer and Stokes. Between 2008 and 2011, Forrest obtained 253 business signatories to his covenant. With Rudd, Forrest planned to employ 50,000 Aboriginal people. As the two-year deadline approached, estimates put the number of Indigenous job placements under the scheme at around 2,800, well short of the original goal.
Forrest is opposed to welfare dependency for Indigenous Australians. He has recounted stories of young Aboriginal girls in the Pilbara offering men sex for cigarettes. Five Indigenous women from the region to collectively lodged a complaint with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission that Forrest's comment was racist and vilified the community. Forrest has been publicly accused of engaging in questionable methods of land acquisition, and has had accusations levelled at his company for failing Indigenous trainees at FMG's vocational training centre in Port Hedland.
In 2013, Forrest was chosen to lead an Australian Government review into Indigenous employment and training programs. Delivered on 1 August 2014 with 27 recommendations, the review proposed the creation of the healthy welfare card.
Slavery and human trafficking
Forrest's daughter, Grace volunteered at an orphanage in Nepal and discovered the children she had looked after had been trafficked to be sex slaves in the Middle East. This distressed Grace and motivated her father to act. Grace, aged 21 years, said at a 2014 interfaith meeting held at the Vatican, "I feel like a puppet for hundreds of thousands of girls who are voiceless – if I can stand for them, that is what I'm here to do."
Forrest established the Walk Free Foundation in 2010 to fight modern slavery. In 2013 the organisation launched the Global Slavery Index ranking 162 countries "based on a combined measure of three factors: estimated prevalence of modern slavery by population, a measure of child marriage, and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country". The Index estimates there are 29 million slaves worldwide, roughly half in India and Pakistan. In January 2014, Forrest announced a deal with Pakistan to do away with more than two million slaves in return for cheap coal.
Forrest founded the Global Freedom Network that the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar lead. The Global Freedom Network works to stop all religious faiths from using organisations involved with slavery in their supply chain.
When I heard the news [that all parties had agreed to the venture] I have to admit I became emotional. This is going to change everything. This is set up like a high-achieving, measurement-driven, totally target-oriented company, it's like a hard-edged business. We are out to defeat slavery, we are not out to feel good. This is our mission. You see the complete hopelessness in the eyes [of enslaved people]. It’s like I’m stuck, I will never get help, I am dirt. Then you know that you can’t rest until you free them.— Andrew Forrest, interviewed in 2014
In 2014 Andrew and Grace Forrest attended a meeting held in the Vatican, being a Joint Religious Leaders Declaration Against Modern Slavery. The anti-slavery declaration was signed by Pope Francis, Mata Amritanandamayi, Justin Welby, Thích Nhất Hạnh, K. Sri Dhammananda, David Rosen, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Abraham Skorka, Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb, Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi, Basheer Hussain al-Najafi, and Omar Abboud – religious leaders representing forms of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, urged consumers to demand more information about whether forced labour was involved in goods they bought.
Other philanthropic interests
As of September 2007[update], Forrest had injected A$90 million into his children's charity. Philanthropic activity has included gifts to his alma mater, Hale School; participation in the St Vincent de Paul Society CEO sleepouts; and a gift from the proceeds of the sale of 5,000 tonnes (5,500 short tons) of iron ore to the Chinese earthquake relief effort. In October 2013 it was announced that Forrest was to donate A$65 million towards higher education in Western Australia. At the time the sum was believed to be the highest philanthropic donation in Australia, with most going toward funding scholarships.
The Minderoo Foundation, Forrest's private foundation, was renamed as the Minderoo Group is to be expanded to include higher education contributions. The foundation has given A$270 million through the foundation since 2001. In 2014, Andrew and Nicola Forrest pledged A$65 million over ten years through the Minderoo Foundation, establishing the Forrest Research Foundation to offer scholarships to students pursuing a PhD at a Western Australian university. In 2017 Forrest donated A$400 million to medical research and social causes, and in 2019 donated a further A$655 million to expand the existing work of the Minderoo Foundation in areas including cancer research, early childhood development, ocean health, and eliminating modern slavery, the largest ever living donation by any Australian philanthropist.
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|‘Twiggy’ Forrest and Cherie Blaire call for tougher modern slavery laws, Matter of Fact with Stan Grant, ABC News|