Rumors had circulated for months about the status of the marriage between Australia’s richest couple, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and his wife Nicola.
Inquiries from journalists about their apparent separate lives, and what this meant for his sprawling $32 billion mining empire and various philanthropic ventures, were dismissed in the strongest possible terms.
That was until Wednesday night. The couple, who have been married for more than 30 years and have three grown children together, released a brief 481-word statement confirming what many had suspected for some time.
‘After 31 years of marriage, we have made the decision to live apart. Our friendship and commitment to our family remains strong,” the couple said in a joint statement to The Australian Financial Review.
Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest and Nicola Forrest (pictured), who have been married for 31 years and have a net worth of more than $30 billion, said they will now be living apart.
Australia’s richest couple insist their split will have no impact on the strategic direction of their mining empire or philanthropic ventures.
Signs that the marriage was about to end
– The couple had been spending increasing amounts of time apart in different parts of the world.
– A flurry of large stock transfers between various companies within his empire.
– There were rumors that the relationship was coming to an end.
Forrest, known by her nickname ‘Twiggy’, was ranked the second richest person in Australia this year, behind rival mining magnate Gina Rinehart.
The couple’s wealth has largely been accumulated through their 36 percent stake in iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group, which they founded in 2003 and is now the eighth-largest company on the ASX by market capitalization.
They jointly oversee their private investment arm, Tattarang, and also co-founded and continue to co-chair their philanthropic venture Minderoo Foundation, which works to address a range of issues from modern day slavery to plastic pollution.
The couple insist their separation will have no impact on the strategic direction of their mining empire or their philanthropic ventures.
“There is no impact on the operations, control or direction of Fortescue, Minderoo or Tattarang,” their statement added.
But it became clear to many that something was up after the couple spent long periods apart in recent years.
Suspicions were further raised by a recent spate of large share transfers between different companies within his empire.
The revelation of their split came after the couple was approached by AFR about a transaction last month that moved more than $1.1 billion of Fortescue stock to a new company called Coaxial Ventures, which is wholly owned by Ms. Forrest.
That transaction came shortly after Mr. Forrest effectively gave his half of his equity interest in Tattarang to Ms. Forrest.
Pictured: Andrew and Nicola Forrest with their daughters Grace and Sophia
Both transactions have given Forrest control of more Fortescue shares than her now-estranged husband, according to the AFR.
It is quite the opposite given in March 2020, nearly 95 percent of the family’s Fortescue shares were held by companies owned by Mr. Forrest.
The couple, who met at a house party in 1988, insist the new arrangements will have no impact on the direction of their various businesses.
It is understood that Tattarang, which owns nearly 65 percent of the Forrest family’s Forrest shares, will vote in accordance with Forrest’s board of directors’ decisions going forward.
Mr. and Mrs. Forrest have equal stakes in Tattarang and he remains CEO of Fortescue.
Since the pandemic, the couple have spent long periods apart. Forrest was in London this week to meet US President Joe Biden, while Forrest is also reportedly abroad.
Grace Forrest was named Western Australia’s Young Australian of the Year in 2018 for her work with the Walk Free charity, funded by her parents’ wealth.
Sophia Forrest is an actress who recently got engaged to her girlfriend Zara Zoe
How the Forrests made their money
Andrew Forrest first found success as a stockbroker for Kirke Securities and Jacksons.
But the ambitious entrepreneur laid the foundation for his $32 billion mining fortune in mining by founding Anaconda Nickel Ltd, now known as Minara Resources, in 1994.
He was fired as chief executive when the company nearly collapsed in 2001, but within two years he took control of Allied Mining and Processing, renaming it Fortescue Metals Group.
It was iron ore mining at Fortescue, in the Pilbara region of western Australia, that saw Forrest’s wealth explode from exports to China.
Mr. Forrest was famous for his ambition, borrowing heavily and spending between $1 billion and $2 billion building roads and railways to support his new mines.
Some of its operations were highly controversial, including mining on traditional land without agreements.
In 2019, he lost a High Court judgment granting native title to the Solomon Hub iron ore mine, which is located on Yindjibarndi land.
That trial meant the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation would seek millions of dollars in compensation, which Fortescue has vowed to fight.
In recent years, Forrest has branched out into sustainable energy sources, including hydrogen.
It also has farming operations, looking to capitalize on China’s growing appetite for meat and dairy.
The couple have three adult children: Grace, Sophia, and son Sydney.
It is understood that they have no divorce plans.
For a long time, the Forrest family joked that Nicola was known as the “undercover billionaire.”
The nickname is partly a reference to her notorious thrift and partly to the fact that she preferred to remain in her husband’s shadow for decades.
‘He [undercover billionaire title] It comes from the fact that she would be encouraging Dad, Sydney and I to eat week-old yogurt because it would go to waste,” her daughter, Grace Forrest, told ABC last year.
‘UCB doesn’t like waste in any form.’
Her mother’s hatred of waste even led Ms. Forrest to refrain from using cling film and to wash and reuse plastic zip-top bags.
Mr and Mrs Forrest have pledged to give away the “vast majority” of their fortune in their lifetimes and previously said they would give very little to their children.
Instead, his fortune will be distributed to a variety of charitable causes, including Indian affairs, education reform, and scientific research.
In April last year, Ms Forrest said she and Andrew were giving away their fortune because they don’t want their children to be “burdened” by a handout.
“We live in a house and I have a great life, but the things that are most important in life, money can’t buy,” he told ABC’s Australian Story.
“Children don’t benefit from thinking they’re going to inherit a lot of money.”
Last month, it was revealed that the former couple had donated $5 billion worth of shares in their mining company to their charity, the Minderoo Foundation.
Forrest, Australia’s second-richest person behind mining heiress Gina Rinehart, and his wife Nicola donated 220 million shares in Fortescue Metals Group.
The donation is about a fifth of his stake in the company Forrest founded in 2003 and of which he is now CEO.
US President Joe Biden greets Andrew Forrest during a Climate Finance Mobilization Forum in the Green Room at Windsor Castle on July 10, 2023.
“While our world faces enormous challenges, we have chosen to continue to use our material wealth to help humanity and the environment cope with these existential risks,” he told Nine newspapers.
‘The accumulation of wealth should be only a small part of a person. Your contribution to your family and society is much more important.
‘If you happen to be good at accumulating wealth, then I believe in using that skill for the greater good.’
His statement Wednesday night added: “We will continue our shared mission of creating and donating our wealth to meet global and community challenges, as recently demonstrated by last month’s donation of one-fifth of our Fortescue stock ownership to the Minderoo Foundation”.