Australia’s wealthiest woman, Gina Rinehart, has been order by the supreme court to pass control of the family trust to her daughter, ending a four-year feud with two of her children, and loosening her grip on the family firm.
The second-gen to a iron ore mining empire, Hancock Prospecting, Rinehart changed the vesting date of the multi-billion dollar Hope Margaret Hancock Trust in 2011 to 2068, just days before it was due to pay out.
As a result, three of her children – Bianca Rinehart, Hope Rinehart Welker and John Hancock – launched litigation to replace her as the sole trustee, arguing she had acted “deceitfully” and alleging she was unfit to head the trust.
Rinehart had initially argued she was trying to protect her children from a large tax bill if the trust was cracked open.
Hope, who had reportedly struggled with the legal costs involved in the litigation, reached a settlement with her mother in 2013.
A fourth child, Ginia, sided with her mother, and claimed her siblings had been acting out of greed.
But on Thursday, the New South Wales Supreme Court sided with Bianca. Justice Paul Brereton said Rinehart had gone to “extraordinary lengths” to maintain control of the trust and stated Bianca was better suited than the alternatives to act as trustee.
The trust holds a 23.5% of Hancock Prospecting's shares, worth more than AUS$4 billion ($3.1 billion), and was set up by Rinehart's late father, Lang Hancock, in 1988. Rinehart herself owns a 75% stake in Hancock Prospecting outright.
Justice Brereton ordered Rinehart handover trust documents to Bianca.
Rinehart had previously tried to settle the matter by suggesting she was willing to appoint a co-trustee.