Former Newcastle Knights owner Nathan Tinkler bankrupt after failing to appeal judgement

Nathan Tinkler has officially made the quick descent from billionaire to bankrupt after he failed to appeal a court judgment over money owed from the sale of his private jet. 

His failure to appeal the decision means he has been declared officially bankrupt as of February 9, barely a week after his 40th birthday.

"I can hear the champagne corks popping in the background,", the now bankrupt Nathan Tinkler told the Newcastle Herald, shortly after apologising to his family and creditors.

In a brief telephone conversation, Tinkler refused to discuss his circumstances.

"I don't want to get in the way of your stories," he said, before hanging up.

Earlier Mr Tinkler had told Fairfax Media that it was unfortunate that his attempts to create wealth and employment had led to this week's bankruptcy ruling.

"I would like to apologise to the creditors and my family," he said.

His bankruptcy will leave a long line of creditors who will not see a cent from the millions they are owed, including billionaire Gerry Harvey who was owed $22 million this time last year.

It was Tinkler's big punt on thoroughbred racing that soaked up most of the fortune he made from coal curing the resource boom, soaking up hundreds of millions of dollars. 

From billionaire to bankrupt: Nathan Tinkler.  Photo: Ben Rushton

From billionaire to bankrupt: Nathan Tinkler. Photo: Ben Rushton

He squandered millions more buying up Newcastle's major sports teams like the NRL's Newcastle Knights, and the FFA's Newcastle Jets.  

The bankruptcy has derailed his great coal comeback, forcing Mr Tinkler to stand down from Australian Pacific Coal last month. He is now banned from being a company director in Australia. 

He was supposed to continue advising the company, but confirmed on Thursday that he would no longer be involved with the company in any way.

"I do not have a role with Australian Pacific Coal," he said.

"I'm not a criminal, I am allowed to get out and earn a living for my family."

Mr Tinkler joked that a career as an anti-coal activist might be easier in modern day Australia than trying to run a business.

"I might become an activist and have the full support of the government and the media and have no responsibility," he said.

Following the court decision last month, Tinkler said he would contest the judgement. 

"I am in a position to pay," Mr Tinkler said of the debt owed to GE Commercial. "I dispute the amount." 

In the judgment, Justice Gleeson said GE Commercial confirmed as recently as December the debt was yet to be paid.Mr Tinkler had been fighting since mid-last year to stave off the bankruptcy claim.

It is nearly a decade since Tinkler's adventure began.

In November 2006, Mr Tinkler, then 30, with support from local business contacts including Richard Jennings and Matthew Higgins, famously sold or borrowed against everything he had - his house and his maintenance business - to scrape together a $1 million deposit on a neglected coal tenement at Middlemount in central Queensland, through his company, Custom Mining.

He had 30 weeks to get the rest of the $30 million deposit together.

By April, Tinkler had pulled in investors including the Hong Kong-listed commodities trader Noble Group, which took 30 per cent of Middlemount.

The transaction was done in June 2007 and, after feasibility studies including drilling to firm up the coal quality and reserves, Tinkler's Custom Mining was sold to Macarthur Coal for $65 million in cash and shares worth up to $210 million. By May, Tinkler sold his Macarthur shares to Arcelor Mittal for $442 million.

From less than $1 million to $442 million in 18 months - it was a stunning deal that propelled Mr Tinkler into the BRW Rich 200, where he debuted at the age of 32 with wealth of $426 million, and into the national spotlight as the brash "bogannaire" who spent up big-time on flash cars, big houses and, particularly, his ambitious horse racing and breeding venture, Patinack Farm.

with Peter Ker