Hart has a preference for buying under-performing companies which can be turned around through strong management, cost-cutting and integration with other businesses. Since his 2006 purchase of Carter Holt Harvey he has focused his acquisitions on the paper packaging sector.
Forbes stated that Graeme Hart was the 110th-richest person in the world, as of 2009
Rank Group is Graeme Hart's private investment company. It is the 100% owner of Burns Philp and Carter Holt Harvey. Rank had assets of approximately NZ$3bn in cash after selling the assets of Burns Philp and floating Goodman Fielder in 2004.
In December 2006 he agreed to purchase International Paper's drinks packaging business Evergreen Packaging for NZ$725m. In May 2007 he bought Swiss packaging company SIG for NZ$3.2bn. The SIG Division Combibloc is the second largest food and drink carton packaging company in the world after Swedish giant Tetra Laval. In August 2007 Hart completed his US$450m purchase of US paper packaging company Blue Ridge Paper Products of North Carolina which he intends to merge with Evergreen Packaging of Arkansas. These acquisitions make Rank Group the world's 2nd biggest player in the paper products business.
Graeme Hart's 'company vehicle' is a Bombardier BD 700 Global Express corporate jet registered N18WZ, owned by Rank Group through Wells Fargo, and operated by Cayman Islands-registered Felham Enterprises. He is reputed to have ordered a replacement brand new Global Express XRS.
Burns Philp and Company Limited was an Australian and New Zealand food manufacturing company dual listed on the ASX and NZX. Hart has been the chairman since September 2004 and a member of the Board of Directors since September 1997. In 2003 Burns Philp performed a A$2.4bn hostile takeover of the much larger food group Goodman Fielder before relisting it through an IPO.
Following the sale of its yeast and spices business to UK firm Associated British Foods, Uncle Toby's to Nestle for NZ$1.1bn and Bluebird Foods to PepsiCo for NZ$245m the company became largely a cashed up shell.
In December 2006, Hart completed a A$1.6bn takeover of the 42 per cent of Burns Philp he didn't already own. After the successful takeover Burns Philp was delisted from the ASX and NZX. The deal gave him total control of A$2.9bn of Burns Philp cash, net of debt, which he could then use to further build on his Carter Holt Harvey empire.
Hart sold Burn Philp's 20% stake in Goodman Fielder for NZ$675.8m in October 2007
Carter Holt Harvey
In 2006 Hart paid NZ$3.3bn for Carter Holt Harvey (CHH), a New Zealand timber and paper business. Soon after completing the purchase he began restructuring the struggling company starting with the sale of CHH's forests to US-based Hancock Timber Group for up to NZ$2bn. Hart has also sold CHH's head office property, various sawmills and packaging plants for over NZ$300m.
In 2007 he announced the sale of CHH's building supplies business which some estimate could fetch NZ$2.3bn.
Hart's strategic focus appears to be on the packaging side of CHH.
Early years Graeme Hart
Hart's successful business career has humble origins—in his younger days, he worked as a tow-truck driver and as a panel beater after leaving school at 16.
In 1987, Graeme Hart completed an MBA from the University of Otago. His research thesis outlines the strategy for Rank, then a small hire company, to evolve into a major corporation.
Hart gained a big break when he purchased the Government Printing Office for less than its capital value in 1990. The following year he bought Whitcoulls Group which at that time included a retail chain of bookstores as well as office and stationery concerns. He has since sold off these interests.
Graeme Hart lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with his wife and two children.
He attended Mount Roskill Grammar School.
Hart says he lacks interest in making money for its own sake. He describes his personal wealth—estimated at NZ$6.1bn—as a "by-product" of what he does.
While he prefers to keep a low profile in the general media he was notable for the launch of his 58m luxury motor yacht Ulysses at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour in January 2006. The yacht is valued at nearly $100m and took five years to complete due to being gutted by a fire during refit by a New Orleans shipyard.
In January 2007 Graeme Hart rescued three people and a dog from their burning boat off Waiheke Island, near Auckland.
In March 2008, an area of 1000 square meters which included protected native trees was cleared on Hart's Waiheke Island estate. Following a complaint, authorities investigated and a fine of $300 NZD was issued, which Hart is disputing and has not paid.
Reports Australasian packaging giant Amcor is shelving construction of a paper mill at Botany in Sydney has fuelled speculation merger talks involving New Zealand billionaire Graeme Hart could be revived.
Sources said construction of the $AU400 million ($NZ515 million) mill was "shelved for the foreseeable future" several weeks ago, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on day.
Amcor had also made at least 60 managers redundant from across its domestic packaging operations in the past month, according to other sources.
The latest redundancies and the shelving of the Botany mill has raised speculation Hart and Amcor are about to re-enter talks about merging their separate Australian corrugated box and paper businesses.
Hart's Rank Group - the owner of Carter Holt Harvey - came close to forming a joint venture with Amcor's corrugated and paper businesses in late 2007.
Graeme Hart has done due diligence on Amcor several times in the past five years.
Amcor's share of the Australian corrugated box market has fallen in recent years, as Visy Packaging cemented its dominance.
An Amcor spokesman said the Botany project was proceeding but the company was retendering the work to get the best price possible.
Amcor shelves Botany mill plans
AMCOR has shelved construction of a $400 million paper mill at Botany, fuelling speculation it is about to revive talks with the New Zealand billionaire Graeme Hart about merging their separate Australian corrugated box and paper businesses.
The Australian packaging giant has also made at least 60 managers redundant from across its domestic packaging operations - ranging from sales to logistics - in the past month, according to three sources.
Amcor announced plans for the new recycled paper mill at Botany in February last year, portraying it as a big step towards turning around the ailing fortunes of the fibre-packaging division. The plant was due to begin operation in 2010 after the closure of two old paper mills at Botany. Graeme Hart
But two sources say the construction was "shelved for the foreseeable future" several weeks ago. Parts for the new mill are understood to have been left in shipping containers at Botany.
The latest redundancies and the shelving of the Botany mill has raised speculation Mr Hart and Amcor are about to re-enter talks. Mr Hart's Rank Group - the owner of Carter Holt Harvey - came close to forming a joint venture with Amcor's corrugated and paper businesses in late 2007. The deal broke down because the two companies could not agree on their assets' fair value.
Amcor's need for the new mill at Botany has faded because of a drop in domestic demand and an oversupply of paper on world markets. Carter Holt's two paper mills in NZ - including Kinleith in the central North Island - also have major spare capacity.
A source said the project could have been shelved in order to get a merger with Carter's Australian box business over the line but "if it doesn't happen, they will probably kick it off again".
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would have the final say on any deal, which would raise concerns about a duopoly in Australia's $2.2 billion cardboard box market.
Mr Graeme Hart has done due diligence on Amcor several times in the past five years. As with previous negotiations, NZ's richest man would want control of any joint venture at board level.
"If you can get the egos to line up it makes a lot of sense to get rid of assets such as that box business which is losing $50 million a year," a former Amcor executive said.
"They were working on the joint venture for two years and it makes sense to do it now. Hart is just like a praying mantis - he will pounce one day."
Richard Pratt's Visy Packaging has cemented its dominance of the corrugated market in recent years. Amcor's share of the corrugated box market has fallen from more than 50 per cent about four years ago to less than 30 per cent. Visy has about 65 per cent while Carter Holt has about 5 per cent.
"All this is just a function of timing. Carter Holt's assets in Australia are ageing assets - it just makes sense to join the assets or Amcor with Rank," the executive said.
Amcor admitted early last month that it was in talks to buy part of Rio Tinto's unwanted Alcan packaging business after months of speculation. Graeme Hart
However, the likelihood of Amcor buying the Alcan assets has lessened. Amcor's share price has fallen 22 per cent since it admitted its interest, as investors factored in the need for the company to resort to an equity raising to fund any purchase. Amcor would now have to issue more shares, diluting existing shareholders.
An Amcor spokesman said the Botany project was proceeding but the company was retendering the work to get the best price possible.
Yes, it’s grim out there and yes some people have lost loads of money, at least on paper anyway.
Take Australia’s richest man for example.
Andrew Forrest, who topped BRW magazine’s Rich 200 list in May with an estimated wealth of $A9.4 billion, has lost a staggering $A4.5 billion since then, according to calculations made by The Australian.
This slump reflected a huge drop in the share price of Mr Forrest’s iron ore mining company Fortescue Metals Group as the world financial crisis took its toll.
This leaves property tycoon Frank Lowy, second on the Rich 200, as Australia’s new richest man with $A5.8 billion.
But before we start revelling in the Aussies’ demise, we should bear in mind that some of New Zealand’s wealthiest are hurting just as much. Graeme Hart
Taranaki-born billionaire Stephen Jennings is a prime example of owning the wrong company at the wrong time.
The Russian-based expat’s finance company Renaissance Capital has been severely damaged by the global credit crunch.
Last month Jennings sold a half stake in Renaissance for $US500 million ($NZ804 million), a fraction of the $US4 billion the company had previously valued itself at.
There’s a glimmer of hope among the gloom though: the wealthiest New Zealander might soon overtake the wealthiest Australian.
Graeme Hart, who topped the NBR Rich List in July with $NZ6 billion is closing in on Mr Lowy’s $NZ6.6 billion.
If Mr Hart weathers the storm and continues to grow his wealth, he may finally give Kiwis something to brag to the Aussies about.
Former tow truck driver-turned-business heavyweight Graeme Hart is now ranked as the wealthiest man in Australasia.
The annual Forbes business magazine billionaire rankings put Mr Graeme Hart's wealth at US$4.5 billion ($8.8 billion), outstripping Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch (US$4 billion), shopping centre owner Frank Lowy (US$2.7 billion) and media heir James Packer (US$2.5 billion).
In business parlance, slightly down is the new up, and that has been the case for Mr Hart.
Despite losing about US$600 million off his estimated net worth, he has moved up the Forbes billionaire rankings list into 110th place - a jump of more than 90 places from last year.
Over the year since the last survey, US$1.4 trillion of wealth has been wiped from the rich list, and the number of billionaires in the world fell 30 per cent to 793.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates (US$40 billion) regains the top spot, having lost it last year for the first time in 13 years to US investment guru Warren Buffett and Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim.
Mr Buffett is now in second place with US$37 billion and Mr Slim is third with US$35 billion.
Graeme Hart's estimated wealth puts him ahead of Richard Branson, Donald Trump, movie directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and Apple computers founder Steve Jobs.
Mr Hart last year paid US$250 million to add the Australian assets of US forestry company Weyerhaeuser to his international packaging products empire, which includes Carter Holt Harvey and Switzerland's SIG.
Other New Zealanders on the list were the Chandler brothers, Christopher and Richard, each valued at US$1 billion.
For 20 years, the Chandlers ran an investment company in Monaco, before parting ways two years ago.
Out of the rankings was Moscow-based Kiwi expatriate investment banker Stephen Jennings.
He joins Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and former AIG head Maurice Greenberg, whose fortunes have crashed over the past year.
And who says crime doesn't pay? A suspected drug lord who is Mexico's most-wanted fugitive is on the list with a fortune described as "self-made".
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's worth, according to Forbes' estimates, is US$1 billion. Graeme Hart
This puts him at No 701 on the list, between a Swiss oil-trading tycoon and a US chemical heir.
Often described as Mexico's most powerful drug cartel kingpin, Guzman has been on the run since 2001, when he escaped from prison, apparently hidden in a laundry truck.
Capturing him could make someone else rich - he has a US$5 million reward on his head.