Solomon Lew is chairman of ASX-listed company Premier Investments, the largest retail tenant in the country. A prominent figure in the retail industry and large political party donor, Lew has one dark company on the Secret Rich List, Voyager Distribution Co.
|Top 200 Rich List (2020)||No. of Dark Companies: 1||Political Donations since FY 1998-99|
|Rank: 24||Voyager Distributing Company Pty. Ltd.||Labor Party: $37,000|
|Wealth: $3.72b||Coalition: $551,000|
|Wealth (2019): $2.83b||Independent: $30,000|
|YoY wealth change: 31.6%||Total: $618,000|
Solomon Lew’s business career has not been short of controversy. He is widely recognised as the man behind the infamous Yannon transaction in 1989 as director of Coles Myer, a deal which lost the company $18 million, resulting in Lew being voted off the board.
The secret rich-lister is also a former board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia and former member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council.
In more recent times, Premier Investments has been linked to the DividendKeeper scandal. Questions were raised in Parliament when Lew’s company received $24.25 million in dividends “after his retail empire … received almost $70m in wage subsidies during the coronavirus crisis”.
The listed company which owns brands including Just Jeans, Smiggle and Peter Alexander, received these subsidies despite Premier’s profits for the financial year reaching $138 million, a rise of almost 30%.
Lew also leveraged the pandemic to operate his 1200 retail stores rent-free during the initial Covid outbreak.
ATO tax transparency data shows Premier Investments generated a total income of $5.3 billion between financial years 2013/14 to 2018/19. Taxable income across this time was $706.2 million of which Premier paid $184.7 million, or 26%, in tax.
The 2020 annual report for Premier Investments states: “During the year, purchases totalling $17,273,036 … have been made by Group companies from Voyager Distributing Co” as well as two other companies. Voyager is his Dark Company, protected by the 1995 grandfathering exemption.