Russell Withers shot to infamy in 2015 when 7-Eleven franchises in Australia were exposed for wage theft. The billionaire is affiliated with three Dark Companies on the grandfathered list.
|Top 200 Rich List (2020)||No. of Dark Companies: 3||Political Donations since FY 1998-99|
|Rank: 54||R.G. Withers Nominees Pty. Ltd.||Labor Party: $0|
|Wealth: $1.79b||7 Holdings Pty. Ltd. (SGE)||Coalition: $0|
|Wealth (2019): $1.33b||7-Eleven Stores Pty Ltd||Independent: $0|
|YoY wealth change: 34.6%||Total: $0|
One of Russ Withers’ companies – 7 Holdings Pty Ltd – is classed as a “significant global entity” or “SGE” (see explainer below). Its parent company, also on the Secret Rich List, is R.G. Withers Nominees. This company is the sole shareholder of 7 Holdings which directly owns the company under fire for the wage scandals, 7-Eleven Stores Pty Ltd, also a Dark Company.
Withers and his family recently made $156 million via the sale of a number of their 7-Eleven stores. In February this year, the billionaire made $78 million from the sale of 18 7-Eleven stores. This is on top of an additional $78 million from the sale of 15 7-Elevens in October 2019.
In 2015, Withers’ 7-Eleven Stores was found to have systematically underpaid its staff in a joint investigation by the ABC’s Four Corners and The Age. It found the routine exploitation of workers, who in some cases made as little as $5 an hour, was endemic to the business model of its franchisees, with head office “turning a blind eye”.
Following this scandal, Withers resigned as Chairman of 7 Holdings. Yet he still owns shares in the retail empire through Dark Company R.G. Withers Nominees.
7-Eleven Stores has since paid back $176 million in stolen wages to its staff. However, according to Allan Fels, who headed the panel for the repayment of wages, this only represents a fraction of the real amount owed to workers.
Deeper investigation into the financial structure of 7-Eleven Stores is not helped by the fact its financial accounts are protected by the 25-year-old grandfathering exemption.