Tinkler faces 'mutiny' over superannuation

THE horseracing empire of self-made Hunter mining magnate Nathan Tinkler has failed to meet the superannuation payments of workers.

Internal documents from Mr Tinkler’s racing company, Patinack Farm, show staff have been on the point of “mutiny” after a series of failed promises to have the unpaid super, some of which is thought to date back to last November, made up.

It is also understood that, following complaints, the Australian Tax Office has told employees it has begun an investigation of the company. In one internal email seen by Fairfax, staff were told the delay was due to “cash flow management”, while in another correspondence a member of the accounts team admits: “it’s very frustrating for everyone – I haven’t got mine either!”

The failure of Patinack to meet its full wage responsibilities comes as Mr Tinkler, who BRW magazine estimated was worth $915 million, sought an extension last week to raise $28.4 million to fulfil an obligation to buy 34 per cent of listed coal company Blackwood Corp.

On Friday, the Herald revealed Mr Tinkler unsuccessfully tried to sell his racing and breeding interests – which include stud farms, private training facilities and more than a thousand racehorses, broodmares and stallions – to a Qatari sheikh for $200 million, about $100 million less than he has pumped into the sport in the past four years.

One Patinack worker, who asked not to be named, said some staff were deeply upset at their treatment by Mr Tinkler.

“This guy’s supposed to be a billionaire, so why can’t he pay people what they’re due? There’s a lot of anger and frustration amongst the staff.”

He added: “There’s a sense that the whole Tinkler house of cards could collapse, people are definitely worried we won’t ever see this money.”

Having failed to offload the whole racing operation – which is costing him in the region of $500,000 a week to run – to Sheikh Fahad al Thani, Mr Tinkler will sell 350 horses in October through the Magic Millions sales company owned by retailing billionaire Gerry Harvey.

Sources within the racing industry believe that Mr Harvey has given Mr Tinkler a cash sum in advance of the sale, suggested to be in the region of $20 million, to help his cash flow.

On Saturday Mr Tinkler suffered disappointment on the track when his best colt, All Too Hard, a half brother to champion Black Caviar, failed to win a group race despite being a heavily backed odds-on favourite.

Should the colt continue to perform poorly, it would soon affect its estimated $10 million value as a potential stallion.

Mr Tinkler has a reputation as a master deal-maker after building his fortune on the back of a $500,000 loan to buy a coalmine in which others saw no potential.

He is attempting to privatise the mining company Whitehaven, in which he holds 21 per cent of the stock. To succeed in that $5.3 billion deal, he needs to raise at least $1billion from partners.

But Mr Tinkler’s Whitehaven stock has slumped recently. On Friday his shares were worth $778 million, down from $1.2billion in April.

There are also at least four outstanding loans totalling $US303 million drawn against those shares.

Under federal law employers are supposed to make super contributions at least every three months. Fortnightly wage slips for some Patinack Farm employees had stated that contributions were being made, though no money was arriving into super funds.

Mr Tinkler’s spokesman declined to comment last night.

tom.reilly@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop