Making a fortune

Chemist Warehouse open sign

My Chemist and Chemist Warehouse co-founders jump more than 30 places up the AFR Rich List, seeing their wealth increase by nearly 70% since COVID-19 hit

My Chemist Retail Group co-founders Jack Gance and Mario Verrocchi have more than doubled their fortune in just three years, reaching rank 60 and rank 63 respectively in this year’s Australian Financial Review Rich List.

Chairman of the group, Mr Gance, boasts a personal fortune of $1.82 billion—a 66.2% increase on the year prior when he was valued at $1.1 billion.

Meanwhile Chief Executive Mr Verrocchi is valued just behind at $1.79 billion, seeing a 68.9% increase since the same time last year when he was valued at $1.06 billion.

Last year Mr Gance and Mr Verrocchi were ranked at 93 and 98, meaning they have jumped more than 30 places up the Rich List in just 12 months.

The years prior saw them in approximately the same position, with a wealth of $813 million and $803 million respectively in 2018.

My Chemist Retail Group runs Chemist Warehouse and My Chemist stores across Australia.

Mr Gance started with just one Melbourne pharmacy in 1973, explains the AFR, and has built that into a “complex franchise structure” with more than 400 sites and an estimated $5 billion in sales.

“Chemist Warehouse is never far from IPO speculation with talk resuming this year,” said the AFR, referring to rumours of a float that has been anticipated since 2017.

“The discount chemist chain is mooted for a listing valuing it at $5 billion, making it the biggest listing since Medibank hit the boards in 2014,” it said.

The duo also made The Australian‘s Richest 250 List in March this year.

“The giant Chemist Warehouse discount chain performed well during COVID-19, doubling its digital sales during lockdown as customers shifted to ordering healthcare products online. But the basis of the group is still its large retail network,” wrote the publication.

My Chemist Retail Group hold an estimated 21.1% share of Australia’s $21.8 billion a year pharmacies market, according to IBIS World.

Robert Millner, chair of Washington H Soul Pattinson (current majority shareholder of Australian Pharmaceutical Industries), and his family, sit in 74th place of the Rich List with a net worth of $1.54 billion–up 33.1% on last year.

“Washington H Soul Pattinson started from a single Sydney pharmacy in the 1880s, opened by a distant Millner relative,” said the AFR.

Wesfarmers recently made a bid for API and Washington H. Soul Pattinson, which owns 19.3% of API’s share, agreed to vote in favour of the proposal.

The “non-binding, indicative offer” to API’s board was to acquire 100% of API’s shares for $1.38 cash per share, “a 21% premium to API’s last close price”, valuing the company at $687 million.

Not all of the big players have seen such a meteoric rise since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Michael Boyd, the majority owner of pathology and diagnostics company Sonic Healthcare, dropped a few places since last year—from 152 to 163.

Mr Boyd, who also owns 49% of Jayex Healthcare, a patient-booking platform and remote prescribing platform he founded in 2004, has total wealth of $687 million.

Jina Chen and Alex Wu, founders of the Nature’s Care brand, have also dropped in the list following a 12.5% downturn on their wealth from last year.

They have placed at number 196 on the list, with total wealth of $595 million, down several spots from 159 in 2020.

According to the AFR, the pair sold 75% of Nature’s Care in 2018 to China’s JIC Investments and Tamar Alliance Fund, in a deal valuing it at $800 million.

Not appearing on the list this year were recent debut rich listers Cathie Reid and Stuart Giles, who were at rank 195 last year with a net wealth of $550 million between them.

Also not on the list was Marcus Blackmore, former co-owner and executive director of the complementary medicines giant Blackmores. He was placed at number 137 as recently as the 2018 iteration of the list.

Mr Blackmore stepped down from the Blackmores board in late October 2020 after 47 years as a director, and has since dedicated himself to philanthropic endeavours through the Blackmore Foundation.

See the full list here

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  1. Peter Allen

    Amazon’s Jeff Bezos thanked his poorly paid workers for financing his extravagant space trip.

    Gance’s staff and franchisees are truly thrilled just to have a job.

  2. Ex-Pharmacist

    I would love to know how current and previous senior Guild exec’s feel about this.
    Anthony? Trent? Kos? George?
    I don’t recall any of these gentlemen ever making any public comment about the obscene wealth generated by this group operating under Community Pharmacy Agreements (CPA) negotiated by the Guild.

    This makes a mockery of Guild claims that pharmacy owners “do it tough” >

    Rather, this article from 2015 was seemingly much closer to the mark >

    • Paul Sapardanis

      Why don’t you question the relevant state regulators on the “complex franchise structure “. I think that’s where their wealth may come from. It’s easy to keep blaming the PGA for the regulators laziness

      • Sean

        The Guild’s political influence outstrips every other organisation in this industry by a wide margin. If you want someone to put pressure on the regulators, the Guild are the people to do so. But they won’t, because going after the strategies discounters use to make their money (overworking employees, wage suppression, absentee ownership, CPA program rorts, dubious retail partnerships, etc.) would presumably raise too many uncomfortable questions about senior Guild members’ own business arrangements.

        I do agree with you Paul, the regulators are slack. But I blame the Guild just as much for their inaction.

        • Paul Sapardanis

          No group needs any pressure to do their job. I too am frustrated and upset at the state of pharmacy and there’s issues that the guild need to do ( and not to do ). The issue of franchises ( basically all of them ) is not their responsibility. The regulators needed to have tested whether these agreements ( all of them ) are in breach of current regulations. Be angry but at the right group.

          • Sean

            I respectfully disagree Paul. I think advocating for increased oversight of ownership arrangements falls well and truly within the Guild’s remit. If they were shouting from the rooftops about how franchises are damaging the profession but getting no response from regulators, I would agree with you. Unfortunately that’s not the case.

          • Anthony Tassone


            The Guild has advocated strongly, across multiple jurisdictions at State and Territory level for years for pharmacy registration authorities to administer pharmacy ownership acts to uphold their legislative intent of pharmacist only ownership and for the maximum numbers of pharmacies with a proprietary interest.

            There have been changes in the way some state based registration authorities review and consider applications for pharmacy business licenses. Some registration authorities including the Victorian Pharmacy Authority have a pharmacy business audit program to audit the ownership and commercial arrangements of pharmacies to ensure they comply with the respective state and territory pharmacy ownership act.

            These changes some of which have come following independent reviews of the administration of pharmacy ownership acts, have come following advocacy by the Pharmacy Guild to the respective state and territory government.

            The Guild has been anything but silent or inactive on pharmacy ownership regulation.

            Anthony Tassone
            Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)

          • Sean

            Anthony, thanks for taking the time to reply to my comment. I was not aware that the VPA’s audit of pharmacy business arrangements was in any way related to the Guild’s advocacy since there is no mention of the Guild in either of their reports, or even the AJP story covering the audit (“All Above Board“).

            Over the last few years I have seen plenty of advocacy from the Guild in regards to keeping supermarkets from owning pharmacies. However, that’s not really what I meant when I said increased oversight of pharmacy ownership. While the guild seems quite active in fending off potential threats like supermarkets and GP surgeries, I haven’t seen much advocacy regarding the two most immediately important problems; franchises and absentee owners.

            Do you believe that the practices of absentee ownership and franchises exercising high levels of control over nominally independent community pharmacies are in accordance with the intent of pharmacy ownership acts?

            By the way, I would like to read more from the Guild, but many of your organisation’s releases on these topics are behind a member-only paywall. 🤷‍♂️

            Sean Gannon
            Intern Pharmacist

          • Michael Post

            Hi Sean

            Developers and medical centre operators have been handed control of pharmacy approvals as per the location rules.
            A developer builds a shopping centre of appropriate size and hey presto they ‘choose’ a pharmacist tenant and receive a pecuniary interest in the form of rent. A couple GPs set up shop together appropriately distanced from the nearest pharmacy (only 300m), get the right amount of prescribers or fudge the numbers on prescribers on a piece of marketing paperwork and hope it slips through , ‘choose’ a pharmacist tenant and hey presto they receive a pecuniary interest in the form of rent.
            A pharmacist with 5 years university and internship cannot just set up a pharmacy. They are better off becoming developers or studying medicine and obtaining a greater pecuniary interest in pharmacy in the form of rent than they will receive in wages.
            It is interesting as demonstrated in Blacktown recently that Greg Hunt is happy to issue approval numbers to medical centres based on Ministerial approval.regardless of prescriber number. If you want to get a new approval you might as well apply- Greg’s definition of community need is the community that will use a pharmacy associated with a medical centre regardless of how close the nearest pharmacy is.
            The location rules are antiquated and anachronistic, set up as per the 1st CPA as an offset for the labour cost of manual PBS claiming at the time. The Guild claim the rules are for consumer access equity- a fallacy that maintains a sub-class of employee pharmacists at their disposal. If access was as beneficial as claimed we would have location rules for electricians, plumbers, GPs, dentists etc. We all know we wouldn’t get a good deal if there were limited professionals in town to choose from.

          • Steve B

            Anthony, how does the Guild balance it’s free market views on wages with strong regulatory views on pharmacy ownership and location rules?

            It seems on the one hand the Guild is advocating for low wages (given historical and recent Fair Work Commission submissions) but then supporting stronger regulations and tighter rules. With this stage the Guild is nothing but an elite club of pharmacists pulling the ladder up after themselves.

            The Guild has operated for too long unchecked and untouched by unions and has run riot in the pharmacy sector. It has created an environment of profit first, people last. This is the very regulatory environment that has spawned and enabled discount pharmacies with horrific wages, poor employee relations and negative workplace cultures.

          • Sean

            Protection for me, free market for thee

    • help!

      yeah that’s the article that incorrectly said pharmacy’s Net profit was $650,000 annually when it is actually $650,00 GROSS profit ….silly sausages……

    • help!

      sue dunlevy should stick to her area of expertise … MBA is her resume!

    • Andrew

      The RTO side of guild’s business is loving it though. All those new staff that need pharmacy certificates…

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