20 January 2021

Andrew Leigh: “When the pandemic hit, billionaire Solomon Lew was quick to plead for government assistance. In one telephone call, he reportedly cried when asking Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to establish the JobKeeper program. Lew’s firm, Premier Investments, temporarily shut down many of its stores, including Smiggle, Dotti, Portmans and Just Jeans. The company applied for JobKeeper and ultimately received more than $40 million in taxpayer assistance. Then Lew’s business came roaring back. Stores reopened and online sales boomed. In 2020, Premier Investments made a bigger profit than it had in 2019. The company paid shareholders $57 million in dividends. As the largest shareholder, Lew himself received more than $20 million. Despite receiving a handout from the taxpayer, Premier Investments also paid its chief executive Mark McInnes a $2.5 million bonus, taking his total pay packet to more than $5 million. … Solomon Lew isn’t the only Australian billionaire to have benefited from JobKeeper. Gerry Harvey (Harvey Norman), Jack Cowin (Dominos), Nigel Austin (Cotton On) and James Packer (Crown) also own substantial stakes in companies that received JobKeeper assistance and paid out multimillion-dollar dividends.” Parasites.