Ex-coal baron quits MD post after being declared bankrupt

Mr Nathan Tinkler, who has stepped down as managing director of Australian Pacific Coal, was ranked as Australia's youngest billionaire at the age of 35 in 2011. The Singapore resident said he is appealing against the bankruptcy ruling.
Mr Nathan Tinkler, who has stepped down as managing director of Australian Pacific Coal, was ranked as Australia's youngest billionaire at the age of 35 in 2011. The Singapore resident said he is appealing against the bankruptcy ruling. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SYDNEY • Former mining magnate Nathan Tinkler stepped down as managing director of Australian Pacific Coal after he was declared bankrupt by a federal court judge.

Mr Tinkler's role at the company will depend on an appeal against the ruling, expected by early next week, he said in a phone interview.

The bankruptcy judgment filed on Tuesday comes after GE Commercial Australasia claimed Mr Tinkler owed about A$2.8 million (S$2.77 million) on a jet.

In 2012, receivers impounded a luxury plane in Singapore and a helicopter in Brisbane.

Mr Tinkler, 40, argued that the currency conversion had been incorrect and the debt had been recorded in US dollars.

Under Australian law, bankrupt individuals are barred from holding corporate directorships.

The ruling does not affect the company's plans, Mr Tinkler said.

"While I'm disappointed that I have to step down as managing director, it's the right thing to do," he said. "I'm committed to seeing the company's plans fulfilled."

Australian Pacific Coal, which has a market value of about A$78 million, agreed in December to buy coal assets from Anglo American in what would be a return to the sector for Mr Tinkler, who is the largest shareholder in the company with a 37 per cent stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

A statement from Australian Pacific Coal announcing the resignation also said Mr Tinkler would continue to act as a technical adviser to the company and that the deal with Anglo American was not affected by the bankruptcy ruling.

The electrician-turned-entrepreneur was ranked as Australia's youngest billionaire at the age of 35 by BRW magazine in 2011 until his wealth was slashed after a series of court cases and asset sales.

Mr Tinkler, a Singapore resident who was ranked as Australia's 26th-richest person by Forbes in 2012, made an initial attempt at a comeback two years ago.

But a deal to buy a mine from Peabody Energy fell through when he failed to make a A$70 million closing payment.

As coal prices plummeted, Mr Tinkler was forced to sell an array of assets purchased with the proceeds from his coal businesses, including a beloved thoroughbred horse farm and a professional soccer club, to repay debts.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-coal baron quits MD post after being declared bankrupt'. Print Edition | Subscribe