Thu 20 Nov 2014
Fiona Geminder is one of Australia’s richest people, but you’re unlikely to know it given the privacy and secrecy in which she shrouds her life.
While a lot of the richest people in the world like to flaunt their wealth, or at least use their name to drive their business or philanthropic work forward, Geminder has almost no public profile at all. She does not give interviews and there are hardly any photographs of her
Despite her vast wealth – estimated by Forbes to be around the $2 billion mark (AU$2.27 billion) – Geminder is little known and would not be recognised on the street by most people.
When we mention her family name, however, you might have a bit more of a clue as to just who she is. Geminder is one of the daughters of Australian box magnate Richard Pratt, who died after a battle with prostate cancer in 2009.
Pratt was born in Poland to Jewish parents and built Visy Industries into one of the leading companies in Australia, earning a fortune worth more than AU$5 billion before his death.
The Pratt family is therefore one of the richest in Australia, with son Anthony the second richest person in Australia, but Fiona Geminder has mainly shunned the spotlight and her father’s funeral over five years ago was one of the last times she was pictured in public.
Fiona is married to Raphael Geminder, who is the chairman of the Pact Group, another of Australia’s leading packaging companies.
This video gives an insight into Pact Group and its business strategies.
While the Geminders live an extremely private existence, one controversial aspect of their lives is the link between the family and the two companies: Visy and Pact.
While Anthony Pratt has led Visy since the death of his father and built it up even further into one of Australia’s top companies, the Geminders have instead focused on the Pact Group.
However, the two companies are essentially rivals and as Fiona retains a substantial stake in Visy, there is occasionally speculation about friction between the Pratt heirs over the difficult business relationship between the two firms.
While Fiona shies away from publicity, her husband Raphael has to speak to the press more often as a result of his position as Pact’s chairman and the media has often speculated that Raphael – sometimes known as Ruffy – does not get on well with Fiona’s brother Anthony.
Visy was recently reported to have won a $55 million packaging contract from Pact for the drinks company Lion.
Raphael previously said in an interview: “I don’t think there is any difference between Visy and any other competitor. Losing a customer is a painful experience, period. It doesn’t matter where the pain is. It is like saying, ‘Is it more painful if you smash your finger whether it is a thumb or a pinky?’ They are all fingers.”
Fiona has avoided commenting on the rivalry between her brother and husband and while she has a stake in both Visy and Pact, it is not thought she plays an active role in the running of either firm, acting in an owner’s capacity at Visy and as a sort of sleeping partner at Pact.
This video gives an insight into the corporate profile of Pact Group.
While Pact is perhaps less well known than Visy, its flotation in December 2013 valued the company at close to $1 billion, making Fiona and Raphael two of the richest people in the world.
Pact was established by Raphael in 2002 and he is now pursuing a five-pronged strategy in a bid to make it one of the biggest and most dominant packaging companies on the planet. But Visy is likely to remain a major competitor to Pact whatever direction the two firms go in.
Indeed, Pact was once a part of Visy before it was split and Raphael took control of the business. And as Raphael is believed to be in favour of mergers as part of his growth strategy for Pact, it is not impossible that Visy and Pact could one day be the same company once more. Pact and Visy do currently work together on a few contracts, but the two firms do not have a close relationship.
It is difficult to pinpoint how much of Fiona Geminder’s wealth was inherited after the death of her father and how much of it has been amassed as a result of Visy and Pact’s success in recent years, but it is certain she is one of the richest billionaires in Australia.
While Fiona and Raphael Geminder have made a conscious decision to maintain as low a public profile as possible, one of their children has instead elected to pursue life in the spotlight.
Their daughter Georgia is an up-and-coming model but, typically for a Geminder, has chosen not to use her last name to avoid getting attention as a result of it. Georgia instead works under the name Georgia G and her biggest break so far has been being named a 2014 Formula One Rolex Australian Grand Prix Ambassador.
Georgia was reportedly spotted at an American Australian Association benefit dinner in 2010 where the Pratt family was being honoured and she is on the books of Chadwick Models.
As well as Georgia, Fiona and Raphael have three other children together – Ben, Annabel and Samantha. Fiona and South Africa-born Raphael met when he was a partner with New York real estate financiers Ekstein Rothenberg.
Raphael has previously described Fiona as the greatest mentor he has had in his life. He told The Australian in 2013: “She has kept me very balanced and very focused on the important things in life. And what are those? Your family.
“I think family is everything. It is why you are on earth. It is central to everything I do. We are as committed to our family as I’d like to think most people are. We all have a duty and a commitment to be good family people.”
Perhaps this helps to explain why the Geminders keep themselves to themselves and do not try to cultivate any sort of public profile apart from what they need to run their business.
Family always comes first for Fiona Geminder.