10 August 2015
The West Australian
Kerry Stokes is the new owner of one of the finest cattle properties in the Kimberley, with his private holding company taking over the reins at Napier Downs Station from leading pastoralist Peter Leutenegger.
It marks a stunning return to the Kimberley cattle industry for Mr Stokes, who once owned a dozen stations in the region in partnership with long-time friend Peter Murray.
Mr Stokes joins Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart in a trifecta of WA billionaires who have recently made big investments in stations in the Pilbara, Gascoyne and Kimberley. Napier Downs, about 130km east of Derby, boasts one of the finest herds in northern Australia.
It covers more than 400,000ha and carries about 20,000 head of red brahman.
Mr Stokes said the quality of the herd and Mr Leutenegger’s meticulous development of the station attracted his interest.
Mr Leutenegger said that after 35 years in the Kimberley, first in aviation and then as a station owner, it was time to have a break before taking on a new challenge.
“The Kimberley and the people here have been good to me,” he said.
“I came here as a broke 22-year-old junior pilot in an old Falcon station wagon in 1980.
“There have been good and bad, as well as sad times along the way, but all in all, it has been the best time in my life.
“I have been lucky with the opportunities that have presented and I will always thank the people who supported my helicopter business and got me on my feet.
“Sadly, not all helicopter pilots are as lucky or successful.”
Peter Murray, who is helping Mr Stokes with his agricultural investments through Australian Capital Equity, has long been an advocate of further development on the black soil plains of Napier Downs.
“I thought Napier Downs was the best station in the Kimberley 25 years ago and I still do,” he said.
“I think it has a lot of blue sky.”
Mr Murray, 77, said the cattle industry was in the best shape of his lifetime.
“I can’t see any reason why the market should fail because for first time ever we have multiple people who want to buy our product,” he said.
“We have been underdone in Australia for 20 years with our prices.”
Mr Stokes recently expanded his farming operations on Kangaroo Island, South Australia, with the $4.7 million purchase of Woodlana Station.
Together with Mr Murray, he owns a network of farms producing cattle and lambs. Mr Murray said they had not ruled out adding more properties.
Courtesy of the West Australian