Gina Rinehart is on her way to becoming the richest person on the planet and gaining control of the highly influential Fairfax Media, publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne Age and Australian Financial Review. A new book has just been published on Rinehart and an ABC Four Corners profile aired this week. Rinehart’s looming presence is everywhere.
Fourteen years ago David Leser interviewed Rinehart at the height of her poisonous decade-long struggle with her former step-mother, Rose Porteous. She hated the story, and has since declined almost every interview request.
The story that follows is a Shakespearean drama of the highest order – a family feud to end them all, the lonely rich girl daughter versus the garrulous, Filipino widow, claims of deathbed bullying, stolen wills, adulterous plottings and an endless trail of litigation. At stake, then and now? The vast minerals empire of the late Lang Hancock, so-called “King of the Pilbara.”
NO-ONE DESERVES TO DIE LIKE Lang Hancock died. Put aside
the cystic kidneys and renal failure, his near-gangrenous legs, and the heart disease and pulmonary congestion that eventually caused him to drown in his own fluids on the morning of March 27, 1992. It was the psychological anguish more than the physical disintegration that so tormented the old man in his last days; the knowledge that whatever control he might have exercised over people and minerals during a ‘rogue bull’s’ lifetime was about to be extinguished in the most perverse of ways.
This was Lang Hancock’s worst nightmare: a fight for the spoils between the two women in his life; in this case, his only daughter, Gina Rinehart, and his third wife, Rose Hancock. They had been limbering up for battle almost from the day Gina hired Rose as the family housekeeper. Now, in his death throes, the fog was lifting and old Lang could see the grotesque outlines of war. He could also see the lawyers dancing on his grave. That’s why – according to Rose-he let out a scream that reverberated through the guesthouse of his Perth mansion in the seconds before his heart stopped. He realised he’d been betrayed by his daughter into depriving his estate of any assets, and that Rose, his love object, his china doll, his youth drug for nine-and-a-half years, had been disinherited, along with the other beneficiaries of his last will and testament.
On the other hand, if you listen to Gina, Lang Hancock might have experienced a different epiphany. If he screamed at all-which she seriously doubts-it would have been because he’d finally twigged to the fact that his wife never loved him. It had been a confidence trick from day one.
The animal cry from the bedroom was, therefore, the howl of a man who’d taken out a restraining order against his wife too late.