Former coal tycoon and discharged bankrupt Nathan Tinkler has defended his track record, shrugging off suggestions he left a trail of unpaid debts in the wake of his collapsed mining empire.
Mr Tinkler told 7.30 he was “an average guy that had a crack”, and was someone who “created a lot of value for people” through his mining ventures.
He also said the negative publicity associated with his appearance before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hurt him financially.
No corruption finding was made against him.
Mr Tinkler’s first big payday came at the age of 32, when he turned a $1 million investment into $442 million after selling his stake in Macarthur Coal.
“I probably wish I just sailed into the sunset after that point,” Mr Tinkler told 7.30.
His second major coal play made him the nation’s youngest billionaire.
Still in his 30s, Mr Tinkler poured millions into horse racing and two football clubs in investments he now regrets.
As his business grew, some of his detractors suggested he had a chronic habit of not paying contractors and creditors.
“People say that I did take a lot of risks and that’s certainly right, but I was good at what I did in the mining sector,” he said.
“I was less good at navigating the corporate waters, so to speak.
“I paid a lot of money in legal fees. I’ve driven a lot of transactions and paid a lot of tax, and those sorts of things don’t get you anywhere in life.
“You know, you end up with big bills and no friends out of it.”
‘It took ICAC five years to clear my name’
Mr Tinkler reached a low point in 2014 when he was called to give evidence at ICAC in Sydney.
Quizzed over allegations of illegal donations to New South Wales politicians, he denied any wrongdoing and no corruption finding was made against him.
“We donated to both sides of politics, but that property development company that I had a minority share in, they had extensive political connections, I [found] out later,” he said.
Asked what his company had hoped to gain by making political donations, he said: “I don’t think you’re looking for anything in return. You’re just participating in the democratic process”.
He is scathing of the ICAC investigation and what he calls the “worthless” evidence it uncovered through wiretaps and office raids.
“After a three-year investigation and then two more years to get a report out, it took ICAC five years to clear my name and say, ‘Yeah, he wasn’t part of this’.”
He told 7.30 the negative publicity associated with ICAC damaged his business.
“Banks and hedge funds and all these people say, ‘We’re going to take what we can off this guy. We’re going to call in the loan’, and that’s effectively what happened to me,” Mr Tinkler said.
“They used that on the basis of, ‘Oh, he’s the bad guy, he’s public enemy No.1’.”
ICAC declined to comment when contacted by 7.30.
‘I’m just an average guy’
In 2016, Mr Tinkler’s business collapsed with debts of more than $540 million. He was declared bankrupt and banned from being a company director until 2021.
Last year Mr Tinkler’s bankruptcy was annulled after his secured creditors accepted just over $1 million.
He told 7.30 his father put up the assets to pay creditors.
“At the end of the day I lost my own money and not investors’ money,” he told 7.30.
“I’ve had a pretty rough trot and you can either crumble under these things and disappear, or you can show a bit of grit, I suppose, and a bit of resilience and fight it off and defend yourself, and that’s what I’m doing now.
“I’m just an average guy who had a crack. Australians these days, when you fail they bring a lot of shame to that, and everyone wants to kick you.”
Watch the interview on Wednesday on 7.30