Tom Reilly August 20, 2012
Tables have turned on the master deal maker ... Nathan Tinkler. Photo: Steve Christo
THE horseracing empire of self-made mining magnate Nathan Tinkler is in deep financial crisis after having failed to meet the superannuation payments of workers since November.
Internal documents from Mr Tinkler's racing company, Patinack Farm, show staff are on the point of "mutiny" after a series of failed promises to have the unpaid super made up. It is also understood that, following complaints from employees, the Australian Taxation Office has begun an investigation.
In one internal email seen by the Herald, staff were told the delay was due to "cash flow management", while in another correspondence a member of the accounts team admits: "It's very frustrating for everyone - I haven't got mine either!"
A staff member said it needed to be resolved soon ''or there's going to be a mutiny''.
The failure of Patinack to meet its wage responsibilities comes as Mr Tinkler, who BRW estimated to be worth $915 million, was last week unable to raise $28.4 million to fulfil an obligation to buy a 34 per cent stake in the listed coal company Blackwood Corp.
On Friday the Herald revealed Mr Tinkler unsuccessfully tried to sell his racing and breeding interests to a Qatari sheikh for $200 million, about $100 million less than he has pumped into the sport in the past four years.
A Patinack worker who asked not to be named said staff were deeply upset at their treatment by Mr Tinkler.
"This guy's supposed to be a billionaire, so why can't he pay people what they're due? There's a lot of anger and frustration amongst the staff."
He added: "There's a sense that the whole Tinkler house of cards could collapse. People are definitely worried we won't ever see this money."
Having failed to offload the whole racing operation - which is costing him in the region of $500,000 a week - to Sheikh Fahad al-Thani, Mr Tinkler will sell 350 horses in October through the Magic Millions sales company owned by the retailing billionaire Gerry Harvey. Racing sources believe Mr Harvey has given Mr Tinkler a cash sum in advance of the sale of about $20 million to help his cash flow.
On Saturday Mr Tinkler suffered disappointment on the track when his best colt, All Too Hard, a half brother to champion Black Caviar, failed to win a group race despite being a heavily backed odds-on favourite.
Should the colt continue to perform poorly, it would soon affect its estimated $10 million value as a potential stallion.
Mr Tinkler has a reputation as a master deal maker after building his fortune on the back of a $500,000 loan to buy a coalmine in which others saw no potential.
He is now attempting to privatise the mining company Whitehaven, in which he holds 21 per cent of the stock. To succeed in that $5.3 billion deal, he needs to raise at least $1 billion from partners.
But Mr Tinkler's Whitehaven stock has slumped recently. On Friday his shares were worth $778 million, down from $1.2 billion in April.
Under federal law, employers are supposed to make super contributions at least every three months. Wage slips for employees still state that contributions are being made, though no money is arriving in super funds.
Mr Tinkler's spokesman declined to comment last night.
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