RICH PICKINGS: Brazil's bashful billionaires

As the global media industry struggles around the world, many commentators have expressed concern that a weak media might allow the influence of the wealthy to grow unchecked and investigated.

But in one area of the media at least, the opposite seems to be true. As the rich get richer and more powerful, the number of rich lists produced around the world are also on the rise.

The heaviest hitter to enter this market is Bloomberg, the financial data and publishing giant which is itself owned by a billionaire, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Last week the company released its first 200-person rich list, which will be the cover story in the December issue of its Bloomberg Markets magazine.

The list is seen as a great rival to the annual list produced by Forbes magazine. While Forbes tries to find every billionaire in the world, it is not surprising that there are plenty of similarities among the top 200 names of both lists, including:

– Carlos Slim on top of both lists, with a big margin back to Bill Gates.

– Retailers dominate, with members of the Walton family (the owners of the Wal-Mart empire) prominent in the top 15.

– Gina Rinehart is the richest Australian with a fortune of $19.1 billion, down 5.4 per cent this year according to Bloomberg.

– Ivan Glasenberg is the other Australian citizen on the list. The chief executive of commodities trading giant Glencore has fortune of $6 billion, down 9.6 per cent during the year.

But as well as similarities, there are some differences too.

One of the most notable is that Michael Bloomberg – who appears on the Forbes list with a fortune of $25 billion is missing from the Bloomberg list; the company says it will not put its owner on its list. That said, Forbes magazine owner Steve Forbes does not appear on the Forbes list, despite regularly appearing as a billionaire.

The other notable differences are Bloomberg’s inclusion of two female billionaires who have not appeared before on the Forbes list. With a combined fortune of more than $25 billion, let’s meet the two newest additions to the ranks of global female billionaire.

Brazil’s ageless empire builder

If you’ve never heard of Brazilian billionaire Dirce Navarro de Camargo, don’t worry – it appears that even in her homeland she is one of the more discreet industrialists you are likely to come across. Bloomberg has been unable to locate her birth date, so at this stage at least even her age is unknown.

But her empire is vast and impressive. Her Sao Paulo-based conglomerate Camargo Correa, generates annual revenue of $8.6 billion and has interests in everything from electricity, construction, cement and the company behind the world-famous Havaianas thongs.

Bloomberg puts her fortune at a stunning $US13.1 billion, making her the 60th richest person in the world, according to its new list.

Navarro de Camargo inherited Camargo Correa from her husband Sebastiao Camargo, who started the business in 1939 and died in 1994. His focus was on construction and infrastructure, and Sebastiao is well known in Brazil for his role in building Brazil’s railways and roads in the decade after World War II.

Today the business is a true conglomerate. Bloomberg puts the amount invested in publicly traded companies at about $9.5 billion, including stakes a Portuguese cement company (called Cimpor Cimentos de Portugal SGPS, an electricity company (CPFL Energia SA), a Brazilian toll road group (CCR SA) and a controlling stake in the footwear manufacturer Alpargatas, the company behind Havaianas.

Camargo Correa then operates its own businesses in cement, construction and shipbuilding, although the latter runs at a loss.

While Navarro de Camargo operates mainly behind what Bloomberg calls "professional managers”, her emergence on this rich list will no doubt bring a new level of scrutiny to her affairs.

Happily, she won’t be the last of the female billionaire from her family either. Her three daughters Regina, Renata and Rosana stand to inherit the business on her death.

Anna Nicole Smith’s billionaire daughter-in-law

It seems remarkable that Elaine Tettemer Marshall stayed off the world’s rich lists for so long given her family’s involvement with one of the most infamous gold diggers of all times: Anna Nicole Smith.

While Elaine is 70 years old and Anna Nicole Smith was 39 died of a drug overdose in 2007, Smith is technically Elaine’s mother in law. Smith married Elaine’s father in law, J. Howard Marshall, in 1994, when the Howard 89 years old.

Howard died in 1995, but four months before his death Smith launched legal action against Elaine’s husband E. Pierce Marshall, claiming that Pierce had interfered with "spousal support” Howard was trying to provide Smith with.

That lawsuit sparked a 16 year battle between Smith and the Marshall family. The fight eventually ended in 2011, but by then Pierce had been dead for five years and his fortune was in the hands of Elaine.

The centrepiece of this fortune – and the prize that Anna Nicole Smith fought so hard for – is a stake in Koch Industries, the $100 billion conglomerate run by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

According the Bloomberg, the 15 per cent stake is worth $US12.7 billion.

The origins of that stake date back to 1959, when Koch Industries bought 35 per cent of an oil company set up by Howard Marshall for about $US5 million in cash.

Ten years later, Koch Industries offered to swap the remaining 65 per cent of the oil company for a share in Koch Industries. Howard astutely agreed and the stake has appreciated into a monumental fortune.

Elaine does not appear to be too keen to take ownership of her title as America’s fourth richest woman. In one of her few public comments she described the valuation as ridiculous.

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