How former Rich Lister Nathan Tinkler got out from under more than $540 million worth of debt

BACK IN BUSINESS: Former billionaire Nathan Tinkler has had his bankruptcy annulled following a little help from his long-time friend Harvey Norman boss Gerry Harvey.  Picture: Tracey Fairhurst
BACK IN BUSINESS: Former billionaire Nathan Tinkler has had his bankruptcy annulled following a little help from his long-time friend Harvey Norman boss Gerry Harvey. Picture: Tracey Fairhurst

NATHAN Tinkler has always been very good at collecting enemies.

The one-time billionaire's volatility and reputation for not paying his debts has seen him fallout with countless friends and people he’s worked with, even his own family.

Amid the wreckage of his collapsed business empire is his only sibling Donna Dennis and former trusted lieutenant Troy Palmer, both declared bankrupt due to their time as directors of Tinkler Group companies.

But there is one relationship the former mining magnate has always been very careful to preserve.

His friendship with billionaire retail king Gerry Harvey.

It’s a relationship that has served Mr Tinkler well, despite Mr Harvey’s – at times – blunt assessment of his friend’s prickly personality.

The Newcastle Herald revealed last week that Mr Tinkler had escaped bankruptcy following another loan from the Harvey Norman boss.

A former Tinkler Group executive said Mr Harvey was the only person he knew able to “tell Nathan how it is” without their relationship imploding.

In 2016, just days after Mr Tinkler was declared bankrupt with debts of more than $540 million, Mr Harvey described him as a “schizo” who thought he was better than everyone else.

“There's something in his character where he has to rubbish everyone he knows,” Mr Harvey told a Thoroughbred Club of Australia luncheon.

“About a year ago I was on the golf course with him on the Gold Coast and I said, 'It's a shame because you're a schizo'; and he said, 'What do you mean?'

“And I said, 'Well there's a nice person in there but there's an arsehole as well. He said, 'What are you talking about?'

“I said, 'Mate, you can be such a nice person, I've seen you talk to people, they all like you. But then the way you behave and what you say, they all hate you.

“Why have you got this urge to be these two different people? And he said, 'Who says that?' And I said, 'Me and everyone else I know'.”

BETTING THE FARM: Nathan Tinkler's father, Les Tinkler, has put up five rural properties on the NSW mid north coast as security for a loan from Gerry Harvey.

BETTING THE FARM: Nathan Tinkler's father, Les Tinkler, has put up five rural properties on the NSW mid north coast as security for a loan from Gerry Harvey.

Mr Harvey refused to reveal the latest loan amount and said it was none of his business what Mr Tinkler did with the money.

It’s at least the second time he’s bailed Mr Tinkler out, after famously loaning him $60 million, and getting it back, during the collapse of the Tinkler Group empire.

Mr Tinkler’s father, Les, put up five rural properties on the NSW mid north coast as security for the latest loan.

The properties at Kendall, Batar Creek and Herons Creek, near Port Macquarie, are owned by Serene Lodge Investments, a company controlled by Les Tinkler and listed as being owned by his late wife, Zelda.

In September last year the properties were re-mortgaged from Prequin Securities to Mr Harvey’s company, MSJG Pty Ltd.

Just weeks later, Mr Tinkler made an unsuccessful offer to creditors of $1 million, which equated to less than 0.2 cents in the dollar, to have his debts of more than $540 million and bankruptcy wiped. An undisclosed revised offer was accepted in April and Mr Tinkler’s bankruptcy annulled.

The rural properties at the centre of the deal cover more than 140 hectares and include vacant land and three farm houses on large land holdings.

A 47-hectare property at 256 Batar Creek Road, Batar Creek, was purchased by Serene Lodge Investments at the height of Mr Tinkler’s wealth in 2010 for $1.15 million.

SPEAKS HIS MIND: Retail king Gerry Harvey is not afraid to offer some insight into the famously difficult personality of his friend Nathan Tinkler.

SPEAKS HIS MIND: Retail king Gerry Harvey is not afraid to offer some insight into the famously difficult personality of his friend Nathan Tinkler.

Just days later the company bought a 43-hectare property at 380 Blackbutt Rd, Herons Creek, with a three-bedroom farm house for $675,000.

Both purchases were neighbouring properties to land already owned by Serene Lodge Investments.

In 2007, 302 Batar Creek Road, Batar Creek, was purchased for $450,000 and a few months earlier another Blackbutt Rd, Herons Creek, place was bought for $870,000. Some company documents listed this as Les and Zelda Tinkler’s home address. A fifth property at Araluen St, Kendall, was purchased by the company in 2006 for $320,000.

At the time of the two purchases in 2010, Nathan and Les Tinkler were directors of the company. When the three properties were purchased in 2006 and 2007 the directors were Les Tinkler and Nathan Tinkler’s ex-wife, Rebecca Tinkler.

Mr Tinkler, who became Australia's youngest billionaire at the age of 35, was declared bankrupt by the courts in 2016, barely a week after he turned 40.

His extraordinary rise from obscurity, and a correspondingly thorough fall from grace, is stuff of legend.