Nathan Tinkler’s life is far too complicated
5 July 2011
The past few months have not been kind to Nathan Tinkler, Australia’s richest man under 40. The embonpoint entrepreneur’s business deals are in turmoil. He’s withdrawn his offer to buy Hunter Street mall and his bid to acquire the Newcastle Knights football team has been acrimoniously on-again, off-again since February with no end in sight. Footy fans are getting restless.
And the man’s affairs have become an almost permanent sideshow in the Supreme Court. In late April his case against his former Supercar Club partner Tim Sommers ended in an expensive draw. His litigation against racehorse trainer Anthony Cummings meanders on (he alleges Cummings knowingly flogged him a horse that was, well, one nut short of the full complement, which is normally two). Tinkler’s list of enemies is growing rapidly so it’s hardly surprising that his affairs are drawing ever-increasing media attention.
Until the last very public failure to close the Newcastle Knights deal, Tinkler’s troubles had not much dimmed the pathetic gratitude hordes of Novocastrians felt for him, particularly if they were followers of the local soccer and rugby league teams. If you criticised Mr One Point Three Billion you’d get accused of tall poppy syndrome. The man was seen as a local working class kid made good, a roly-poly benefactor showering largess on a town that the state government has neglected for decades.
Take it from one who’s lived through the rise and fall of many Australian entrepreneurs: fast cars, sporting teams, racehorses, beachfront properties, failed deals, growing tribes of enemies, endless court cases, investigation by Paul Barry – these are not good signs.
And now Tinkler has suffered another complication in a life that’s already too complicated for comfort. Around midnight on Saturday 25 June a thief (or thieves) entered his celebrated Merewether mansion and stole laptops, watches and a camera while he and his family slept upstairs. Scary. And the intruders had the temerity to pinch his $460,000 black Ferrari California. The most distinctive car in Newcastle was driven right through the most populous part of the city and up the Pacific Highway to Raymond Terrace where it was dumped and torched in bushland near the Richardson Road offramp.
Whoever they were, they took a hell of a risk. Not many houses get robbed while the owner is at home, particularly if he’s the most famous local son. And it’s a bold thief that walks into a house when the owner clearly has the wherewithal to buy heavy-duty security.
On the surface it looks like the sort of crime that the cops solve easily enough because the perps are so dumb they can’t resist bragging about their exploit.
So I come out of the office with the laptops, eh, and I nearly fuckin’ fall over Wayne in the dark and he goes, ‘Mate, look what I got – the keys to the fuckin’ Ferrari’. And I goes: ‘Mate, I dare ya’. And it takes him like it musta been five minutes to find the fuckin’ ignition. … And we’ve crossed the Hexham Bridge and Wayne goes, ‘Fuckin’ watch this mate’, and he puts the pedal to the metal and me head nearly snapped fuckin' off. Mate, we musta hit about two hundred and fuckin' fifty…
It’d make a great low-budget movie, starring Steve Le Marquand and Tom Budge. But is that what happened? Would blokes that dumb get themselves together to pull off a job like that or are we looking at a more sinister motive, connected somehow to Tinkler’s relentlessly expanding circle of enemies?
Strangely, Tinkler is the second colourful Newcastle identity with many enemies to lately fall victim to home invasion and car theft. In mid April, the Millfield home of former NSW Treasurer (and Tinkler associate) Mick Costa was invaded around 8.20 in the morning, just after he’d left for a meeting in Newcastle. Mrs Costa and the kids were threatened by a masked man who tied her to a chair with wire before making off with a few bottles of excellent wine, a purse and her blue Honda Civic.
I speculated at the time that this was an unusual crime whose motives were very difficult to fathom. Then, on 3 May the cops arrested Mark Noel Sheehan, 38, of Kincumber who’d been living in a concealed bush camp a short walk from the spot where Mrs Costa’s car was found nine days after the robbery. According to news reports, Sheehan had surrounded his camp with booby traps. He was “severely depressed” and had gone off his medication.
The case has yet to go to court but as far as we know, the evidence is that Sheehan had the wine stolen from the house and Mrs Costa’s Visa card was found in his wallet. His barrister acknowleged the strong circumstantial case, but argued for bail on the grounds of his client’s previously unblemished record. Bail was refused. It’ll be an interesting case to follow.