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December 22, 2008

From zero to billionaire through guts and hard work

I am fascinated by an Australian Entrepreneur called Andrew Forrest . I worked for this guy once a while ago and he is a phenomenon. I still recall him blasting his way into a room where I was sitting, giving a phenomenal speech and then leaving wrapped in the whirlwind.

In the time I have been following him he has built two empires using only two sticks and a piece of string. An incredible achievement. But, theres always a "but", all is not what it seems.

His first empire was a revolutionary mining technology company. He convinced companies around the world to finance him to the tune of over a billion dollars. he lost control of the gigantic construction project, and when payment came due on his debts it all hit the skids.

Officially he retired in 2002 from that company. In reality he was forced out by mining giant Anglo American, who were humiliated by being had, and a shadowy company called Glencore - who wanted to exert control over one of the minerals markets. (He resigned after a board meeting where his CFO Michael Masterman (I kid you not) was thrust onto his sward)

Today, he is in trouble again. His company Fortescue is the third force in Australian Iron Ore mining. He is still moving at several hundred miles an hour. He is plagued by the commodities implosion, legal challenges, a dubious stock market and a recent report that he was about to issues shares in order to pay contractors!

His fortune now stands at only A$1.7 billion, poor guy. it is also worthwhile noting that his first company is now profitable, and has returned a good level of growth for me at least.

Lots of lessons here. A cynic would say slow down and you can achieve greater things.

I say A$1.7 Billion isn't too bad.

Throughout my recent career he has stood as an example of how to lead, how to inspire, how to extract success from nothing, (really nothing) and what a businessman with a real survivors instinct looks like.

I wish him well.