In a new twist to the ongoing feud in Australia’s Rinehart family, the children of Gina Rinehart, the country’s richest person and head of the family’s mining business, can now claim their share of the family trust, but it may come at a price.
Rinehart, who personally owns 75% of Hancock Prospecting, has changed the vesting date of the family trust from 2068 to April 2012, according to reports in the Australian press.
The move, heard by the New South Wales Supreme Court on 9 May, means her four children – John, Bianca, Hope and Ginia – will not only be able to request ownership of the remaining 25% shares held in the trust, but will also be entitled to receive dividends should Hancock decide to issue them.
But according to reports, Hancock’s regulations do not permit the children to sell their shares to outsiders. Instead, shares can only be sold to family members, but the children cannot afford to buy them, said reports.
A call for shares by the children could also lead to a multi-million-dollar tax bill, as warned by Rinehart in March this year, when she suggested she remain in control of the trust.
But the decision to open up the trust hasn’t brought any change to the legal action being taken against Rinehart by three of her four children.
John, Hope and Bianca want to oust Rinehart as trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, first set up by Rinehart’s late father, Lang Hancock.
"Nothing has changed. [Rinehart] still remains as trustee and we still want her removed. This does not affect our court action," John told local newspaper the West Australian.
Rinehart’s youngest daughter Ginia is the only one who hasn’t taken her mother to court.
Fifty-eight-year-old Rinehart is worth an estimated $18 billion (€13.9 billion), according to Forbes, thanks largely to the Perth-based family business, set up by her father in 1955.