Mining boss Twiggy Forrest just made $1.24 billion in a single day — and Australian charities will be stoked

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
  • Western Australia-based iron ore miner Fortescue Metals has announced a 24 cent dividend for shareholders as it hands down a US$3.2 billion profit.
  • Fortescue chairman Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest stands to make $1.24 billion from the announcement, when you combine it with the $981 million he has paid off dividends this financial year.
  • Forrest and his wife Nicola are the most prominent Australians signed up to The Giving Pledge campaign started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

The iron ore market might have slumped in recent weeks, but you wouldn’t know it from the pay day mining boss Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest just had.

The Western Australian executive stands to gain a total of $1.24 billion after the Fortescue Metals Group — of which he is chairman and holder of 1,090,052,947 ordinary shares — announced a 24 cent dividend off the back of its financial results.

The dividend will see Forrest paid out $261.6 million, which, when combined with the $981 million in dividends he has already racked up this financial year, adds up to quite a tidy sum.

But before you start throwing things around the room and ranting about the enduring profitability of fossil fuels, you might be pleased to know that Forrest is one of the most charitable fellas in Australia.

He and his wife Nicola are among the 204 signatories to The Giving Pledge — the global philanthropic campaign started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, which sees billionaires agree to give away at least half of their wealth to charitable causes.

In a letter addressed to “Dear Bill and Warren”, the Forrests pledged to give away the “vast majority” of their wealth, explaining that simply passing on their wealth in the form of inheritance would just “get in the way” of their children “striving for and achieving their best”.

The family’s Minderoo Foundation has started executing on the vision outlined in the letter to Gates and Warren, with $1.5 billion committed to initiatives including AI software matching cancer patients with clinical trials, the development of a global index on sustainable fishing and Dreamspark, an entrepreneurship program for young Indigenous Australians, according to its website.

Minderoo also hasn’t been afraid to spend on staffing, with more than 90 employees including CEO Andrew Hagger, a former NAB executive and high-profile casualty of the banking royal commission.

Forrest — and his chosen philanthropic causes — are not the only ones benefiting from Fortescue’s newly-announced dividend.

According to the company’s annual report, CEO Elizabeth Gaines, will pocket $93,450 in dividends in addition to her $4.5 million salary package, while board member Jean Baderschneider — a former senior exec at ExxonMobil — will take home $33,120.

Former McKinsey consultant and Macquarie banker Mark Barnaba, who serves as deputy chair, will receive $4,800 in dividends on top of his $379,500 salary.

Whether these acolytes will follow their chairman onto The Giving Pledge remains to be seen.

UPDATED 29/8/2019: This article has been updated to remove a potentially misleading sentence referring to Forrest’s personal tax affairs and the dividend imputation system.