Longstanding Coalition donor Richard Smith is the owner of Australia’s largest privately-owned food service network and Dark Company PFD Food Services Pty Ltd.
|Top 200 Rich List (2020)||No. of Dark Companies: 3||Political Donations since FY 1998-99|
|Rank: 148||PFD Food Services Pty Ltd||Labor Party: $0|
|Wealth: $702m||PFD Regional Pty Ltd||Coalition: $598,695|
|Wealth (2019): $1b||Glacier Nominees Pty Ltd||Independent: $0|
|YoY wealth change: -29.8%||Total: $598,695|
Comprising 26 distribution centres nationwide, PFD delivers wholesale food supplies to pubs, cafes, restaurants, airlines, hotels and fast-food outlets. They also deliver to sporting events, retirement villages, schools and theme parks.
After initially joining PFD as a driver and salesman, Smith took over the business alongside the billionaire Liberman family in the 1970s. He would then take full control of the distribution empire in 1988. Smith’s daughter Kerry was appointed to the board in 2000 and is now chief executive of the Dark Company.
ATO tax transparency data for financial years 2013/14 to 2018/19 shows PFD made an income of $10.9 billion. Taxable income over this period was $217.4 million of which they paid $64.4 million in tax.
In August 2020, Australia’s largest supermarket chain Woolworths announced its intentions to buy a 65% stake in PFD worth $552 million, pending approval from corporate watchdog the ACCC. As reflected in Smith’s YoY wealth change of -29.8%, PFD felt the economic fallout from the pandemic.
However, the ACCC has raised concerns over the acquisition as it would strengthen the food manufacturer and supplier duopoly held by Woolworths and Coles. It stressed the importance of private suppliers such as PFD to counterbalance the dominance of the two supermarkets.
“The ACCC is concerned that the proposed acquisition would remove PFD as an important alternative customer in the food sector, reducing the number of buyers and increasing Woolworths’ relative size as a customer of food manufacturers and suppliers,” said ACCC chair Rod Sims.
This concern was echoed by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman which suggested “the deal [could] put smaller distributors out of business, costing thousands of jobs”.
It would also mean the supermarket giant would own a commanding stake in a Dark Company, and subsequent control of PFD’s two other subsidiaries on the Secret Rich List – PFD Regional Pty Ltd and Glacier Nominees Pty Ltd.
The ACCC’s final decision will be announced on 22 April 2021.