While agriculture has long been an industry associated with a volatile financial outlook, one Australian farmer has bucked the trend to be named in the Australian Financial Review’s Richest Under 40 list.
In 2011, Peter Greensill, a watermelon farmer from Bundaberg, traded equity in his farm for a stake in his brother Lex’ UK-based finance start up.
Earlier this year, Greensill Capital – which lends money to small and medium businesses – was valued at a staggering US$1.64 billion (AUD$2.3 billion).
Peter’s 17% interest in Greensill Capital, along with his stake in the family farming operation – Greensill Farming Group – have amassed him a $412 million fortune, catapulting him onto the Australian Financial Review’s rich lists with the highest debuting fortune in the list’s history.
Together, Peter and his brothers Lex and Andrew are estimated to be worth $1.13 billion. All three brothers have a stake in the farming business, which has increased its holdings to grow sugarcane, sweet potatoes and watermelons. Greensill Farming Group grows 5% of Australia’s watermelons, providing the brothers with enough capital to buy their parents out in 2008.
What started as a 27-hectare soldier settlement by their grandfather Roy Greensill in 1947 has expanded into 2000-hectare operation valued at $55 million.
According to Lex, the success of the Greensills’ interests is down to their father’s insistence that they achieved tertiary qualifications.
“Dad sent us away, told none of us that we could have a job on the family farm,” he said.
“He wanted us to all to get a qualification and make our own way in the world. Peter and Andrew in many respects were more capable than me in trying to find their way back to farming and in the family farming business”.
While Andrew and Peter chose to study agriculture, Lex completed a law degree at the Queensland University of Technology, before forging a career in finance with top tier financiers including Morgan Stanley and Citigroup.
But it was his experience as a farmers’ son that inspired his own venture, realising the impact that late payments can have on farmers reliant on cashflow. Even the big name banks that he worked for struggled to get money to clients in a reasonable time frame.
“Our business is [delivering] ultra-cheap capital to small business in every corner of the world. We have democratised capital. That business is a business that isn’t just a business that makes money but it’s a business that changes the ability, in our case, of millions of people, to create wealth and grow their business. That’s a fundamental good,” he said.
“What motivates us is we love the businesses we do, in our finance business we enable tens of thousands of battlers in Australia and more than 1.5 battlers around the world to achieve their dreams by delivering them really cheap capital and in our farming business we really contribute to the local economy and produce great products for Australians.”
Sources: The Australian Financial Review
Image: (L-R) Lex, Peter and Andrew Grensill. Image Supplied