A Good Day kicks off Australian mining magnate's horse sale

Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:28am EDT
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By Jane Wardell

GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) - With a cry of "cheap as old boots" from the auctioneer, the hammer came down at A$5,000 ($5,200) on the first broodmare to open a three-day auction of 350 horses from the stables of faltering mining magnate Nathan Tinkler.

Tinkler's rise from pit electrician to Australia's youngest billionaire has hit a hurdle, with creditors circling his stable of mining, sports and racing businesses, and he is raising funds with the out-of-season sale that began on Tuesday.

His 19.4 percent stake in Australia's biggest independent coal miner Whitehaven Coal, which represents the bulk of his wealth, is heavily leveraged and has shrunk considerably in line with falling coal prices.

A fiery annual general meeting looms as the next hurdle on Thursday, with Tinkler demanding a clear earnings forecast from Whitehaven and threatening to use his voting power to overthrow the chairman and senior board members if they don't comply.

Tinkler, 36, fulfilled his dream of owning a racing stable, joining a business known as "the sport of kings" and its wealthy elite, after he turned a A$1 million bet on an unfancied coal deposit into a billion-dollar fortune.

However his Whitehaven stake, worth about $1.2 billion at its peak, has shrunk to below A$700 million. Sources have told Reuters Tinkler is dealing with a number of lawsuits over missed payments.

But Tuesday started with a good omen -- the first horse on the block was named "A Good Day". Many punters at the blood stock auction company Magic Millions said prices at Tinkler's "unreserved reduction sale" were higher than anticipated.

"I couldn't be happier with the way the market is and the way it has received the stock we are selling," said Magic Millions Managing Director Vin Cox. Buyers were mainly from Australia, with some from the Philippines.   Continued...