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June 02, 1995 - Image 52

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-06-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The Rebbe's Inspiration
Led To A Gold Strike

ABRAHAM RABINOVICH SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

rowing up in Melbourne,
young Joseph Gutnik had
a dream to plunge into the
country's vast outback,
strike gold, become fabulously
wealthy — and give all his mon-
ey away.
The dream differed from that
of other Australian youth not
only in that last offbeat fillip but
in coming true;
Mr. Gutnik, who hasn't quite
given it all away, admits to being
a millionaire several hundred
times over, but notes, to keep
things in proportion, that he is
not yet a billionaire.
In any case, he is now believed
to be the richest observant Jew
in the world following the decline
in the real-estate fortunes of the
Reichmann family in Canada.
His benefactions have made the
amiable, 43-year-old business-
man a major player in world Jew-
ish affairs, particularly in his own
Chabad camp, and an important
supporter of right-wing causes in
Israel.
In Jerusalem recently for a
brief visit, Mr. Gutnik arranged
a mass bar mitzvah at the West-
ern Wall for immigrants from the
former Soviet Union, helicoptered
to Hebron with Likud MK Ariel
Sharon to shore up the spirit of
the settlers, visited a synagogue
he is building in the settlement
of Shiloh (north of Ramallah),
met with right-wing political fig-
ures, checked on the country's
score of Gutnik Centers (which
provide material assistance and
Torah lessons to ex-Soviet immi-
grants) and touched base with
a Beersheva scientist with whom
he is involved in development of
a possible new energy source.
Mr. Gutnik's emergence as one
of the world's great gold produc-
ers stems from his youthful vi-
sion of growing up to become a
gvir — a wealthy patrician who
helps his people and sits in a
prominent place in synagogue.
Mr. Gutnik's particular vision
was to be a gvir serving the
Lubavitcher rebbe and his
Chabad movement. "From a
young kid I had ambitions to be-
come successful and help the
rebbe in his worldwide activities,"
he says.
Mr. Gutnik comes from a long
Chabad line. After World War II,
his father, Rabbi Chaim Gutnik,
emigrated from Russia to Aus-
tralia where he married Mr. Gut-
nik's mother, an immigrant from
Poland. The elder Gutnik be-
came head of the Rabbinical

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52

Abraham Rabinovich writes for

the Jerusalem Post.

Council in Victoria and serves
still as a rabbi in Melbourne. Mr.
Gutnik's three brothers are prac-
ticing rabbis and his two sisters
are married to rabbis. Joseph,
who is himself ordained, attend-
ed yeshiva in Melbourne and
then studied at the Chabad
yeshiva at 770 Eastern Parkway
in Brooklyn.
Returning to Australia, he
married the daughter of a
wealthy textile merchant in Mel-
bourne and went into his father-
in-law's business. It promised to
be a comfortable life, but before
long Gutnik was feeling restless.
"I always had a desire to be in-
dependent," he says. His innate
energies, locked heretofore in
Torah studies, were now focused
on the worldly landscape about
him. Where to begin building a
fortune?
Investment in the stock mar-
ket seemed a likely answer.
"I understood that in the out-
back there was a chance of find-
ing nickel and other metals. I got
involved in a small company that
invested in another company that
made a lot of money. I sold it for
$20-30 million. It got me going."
Where he got to was the Great
Central Mines Co. of which he ac-
quired a controlling 30 percent
share. In 1987, the company in-
vested $1 million in a promising
gold mine in Western Australia
called Plutonic. In the wake of
cash flow difficulties caused by
the American stock-market crash
— the Australian press reported
him losing $100 million — Mr.
Gutnik was obliged to sell the
mine in 1989 for $50 million.
With the active encourage-
ment of the Lubavitcher rebbe,
whom he would travel to New
York to meet with periodically,
Mr. Gutnik invested heavily in
the search for metals in a bleak
section of the outback known as
the Yandal Belt. It was not a ca-
sual decision. "People invest mil-
lions in such exploration and find
nothing," he notes.
At the end of 1991, Great Cen-
tral went into partnership with
Perth prospector Mark Creasy
who had identified the gold po-
tential of the Yandal area. Mr.
Gutnik undertook an aggressive
probe, finally hitting some of the
richest deposits in Australia. He
hastened to obtain leases for fur-
ther mineral exploration in the
region, an area roughly half the
size of Israel.
It is not true, he says, that the
rebbe had told him precisely
where he should look, as some re-
ports have claimed. "He said to
follow the advice of experts."

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