Once-youngest billionaire faces fickle fortunes

One of the two grand-sized homes that he rents at Swettenham Road, in the Dempsey area.

For the last two years, former coal baron Nathan Tinkler has lived a quiet and private life here in Singapore, lost among the other millionaires and their lazy lunches at Dempsey Road.

But that is unlikely to continue.

Once Australia's youngest billionaire at 35, with an estimated nett worth of about A$1.13 billion (S$1.3b), Mr Tinkler, who moved to Singapore in 2012 with his family, has seen his fortunes dwindle.

Now 38, he has an estimated nett wealth of under A$18 million, according to Australian business magazine Business Weekly Review.

Sports clubs he bought with gusto in 2011 are on the verge of being yanked away from him. Simply put, he allegedly failed to pay the bills.

In Australia, his name has been regularly popping up in a corruption probe that has implicated politicians, their friends and Mr Tinkler himself.

A former Labor party Member of Parliament for Newcastle claimed that Mr Tinkler and another MP had tried to undermine her by running a smear campaign in her ward.

The Australian reported that Ms Jodi McKay made the claims during an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Thursday. She claimed that Mr Tinkler had tried to buy her support by offering to bankroll her campaign.

He allegedly wanted support for a development plan.

While Mr Tinkler had been named as a witness by ICAC, the commission did not suggest that he had acted corruptly, reported Sky News.

But now there are Ms McKay's allegations. She said she rejected the offer, but the smear campaign may have led to her defeat in the 2011 election.

Even senior politicians have been dragged in.

The Commission had earlier heard claims that former New South Wales (NSW) state energy minister Chris Hartcher had tried to secure illegal donations from Mr Tinkler through Mr Hartcher's adviser, reported Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

To channel the donations, Mr Hartcher's adviser had allegedly set up a sham business to source for funds.

One of the sources in the funds-for-favours allegation involved Mr Tinkler's property development group, Buildev.

SMH reported that property developers have been banned from donating to political parties in NSW since December 2009.

In a latest development, New South Wales police minister Mike Gallacher has resigned after ICAC decided to pursue him over an alleged plot to disguise developer donations, The Australian reported.

Mr Gallacher, a former police officer, said he had spent his entire professional life fighting crime and corruption and did not know what the allegation was against him, but said: "I have made the decision that I should not remain in this office when such a serious allegation has been made against me."

MORE WOES

Mr Tinkler has other headaches.

He lost control of the Newcastle Knights, a rugby league team.

The millionaire and his Hunter Sports Group needed to have a A$10.52 million bank guarantee in place by the end of March as part of his 2011 deal to purchase the team, reported ABC.

He also risks losing the club as well as his A-League football club, the Newcastle Jets, which he may have to sell to keep the rugby team. Former England international, Emile Heskey, plays for the Jets.

After moving from Australia, Tinkler allegedly bought a home on Sentosa, but rented two grand-sized homes at Swettenham Road, off Dempsey Road.

In Singapore, he lived in one home while the rest of his family, including four children, lived in the other.

The adjacent homes, worth about $20 million each, are in an estate which commands $20,000 in rent.

He had been living off an A$1 billion trust fund set up in his wife's name, but that looks to be drying up soon.

The Daily Telegraph reported that his wife and four children have moved to their A$16 million mansion on the exclusive gated community of Keauhou on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

The home was bought in 2011.

Mr Tinkler was the quintessential Australian "Ah Beng", or in local parlance, bogan, who made good despite starting off as an electrician.

Scraping together what little money he had, he bought a mine in 2006 and from there his fortunes grew.

It is unclear if he will continue to remain in Singapore as his money runs out.

This article was published on May 3 in The New Paper.

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Purchase this article for republication.

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