GINA Rinehart and her warring children risk losing control of their most valuable asset a $10 billion stake in the Hope Downs iron ore project to mining giant Rio Tinto as part of the long-running legal battle that has engulfed the family.
In a hearing to begin today, Mrs Rinehart’s eldest daughter Bianca, 37, will attempt to convince NSW Supreme Court judge Paul Brereton that she is the best choice to replace her mother as trustee of the family trust, which holds 23.4 per cent of the family company Hancock Prospecting.
The Australian understands she will also argue that Mrs Rinehart’s bid to install a corporate trustee, rather than allowing Bianca to manage the trust, could jeopardise Hancock Prospecting’s ownership of its 50 per cent stake in the Hope Downs mine in the Pilbara.
This is because such a move might trigger a change-of-control provision in an agreement between Hancock Prospecting and Rio Tinto, which stipulates that the family company must be owned and controlled by direct descendants of Mrs Rinehart.
It is understood that lawyers for Bianca will argue that Rio Tinto could contend that change of control could occur, which would lead to complex litigation or the forced sale of the Hope Downs asset.
Bianca will be cross-examined during the four-day hearing and may face questioning over her motivations in seeking to manage the trust, her previous struggles with an eating disorder and her husband’s career as an executive with mining giant Rio Tinto.
It is understood her lawyers will argue that Bianca is perfectly qualified to become trustee because she was a director and employee of Hancock Prospecting for many years and would perform the role with expert advice from an accountant or barrister.
If successful, Bianca would gain access to the trust’s records and have the obligation to investigate the operation of the trust.
Any adverse finding against Mrs Rinehart’s role as a trustee could jeopardise her role as a director of Hancock Prospecting, the mining company valued at up to $20 billion that she inherited from her father Lang Hancock.
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