SYDNEY, May 28 (Reuters) – Australian iron ore magnate Gina Rinehart’s eldest daughter won control of the $3 billion dollar family trust on Thursday in a judgment critical of Rinehart’s former control of the fund and attempts to block the long-running legal dispute.
The Supreme Court of New South Wales judgment loosens Rinehart’s legendary grip on her business empire, with almost 25 percent of Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd held by the trust.
Rinehart owns the remainder of the family firm, which in turn owns 70 percent of Roy Hill, a Pilbara-based iron ore mine due to start shipments later this year.
South Korea’s POSCO, Japan’s Marubeni Corp and Taiwan’s China Steel Corp also have stakes in the mine, which will be Australia’s fourth-largest when it reaches full production.
Three of Rinehart’s four children – eldest Bianca Rinehart, Hope Welker and John Hancock – sued for control of the trust in 2011.
They alleged their mother acted with “gross dishonesty” as trustee, when she pushed out its vesting date until 2068, meaning all four children would not get their shares until they were in their 80s and 90s.
The dispute over the trust contributed to delays in setting up funding for Roy Hill and legal experts said Thursday’s ruling allows the children to press their rights as minority shareholders and seek more power via the courts.
In a 160-page judgment, Judge Paul Brereton said Rinehart “manipulated” global accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers into providing advice contrary to the best interests of the children.
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