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Anthony Pratt now Australia's wealthiest person
Paper and packaging are still avenues to riches for people who can identify opportunities and seize them. Just ask Anthony Pratt, now Australia's wealthiest person, with a $12.6 billion fortune in his hands.

He is executive chairman of the recycling and packaging giants Pratt Industries in the USA and Visy in Australia. Says John Stensholt, editor of the Financial Review Rich List, Pratt is reaping the rewards of expanding and investing in his businesses in the American rust belt states, where many people thought manufacturing was dying only a few years ago. He has greatly expanded and improved his family fortune through charging ahead against the tide with counter-cyclical investments.

Visy and Pratt Industries have grown dramatically in recent years. Stensholt quotes Pratt, who said, "Money is a great scoreboard of success, or one of them. It's a great honor and I feel very fortunate that I'm in a position that I can build a business. We've more than doubled the size of the business since 2009." Since 1991, Pratt has bought about 68 small US box plants that sell such value-added containers as jewelry boxes. These plants buy their paperboard raw materials from one of Pratt's four recycled paperboard mills. Said Pratt, "My goal by the end of my life is to have 12 paper mills and 240 factories in America. But no one can read the future; I'd put that caveat on it."

Amazon's US customers unpack their goods from Pratt-made boxes. Americans moving to new homes buy more than a million Pratt-made boxes from Home Depot each week. And Pratt has begun packing batteries into its own boxes for Eveready. When Pratt arrived in the USA in 1991, the company had one paper mill, in Macon, Georgia. The company recently opened its 68th facility, a sheet plant in Beloit, Wisconsin.

Pratt says he will never step down from his role in running his companies. He adds, "I plan to retire to the cemetery."

Chuck Swann is senior editor of Paperitalo Publications.

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