The family court feud that Australians are following like soap operas because of the huge money involved has a new twist. It seems the battle has suddenly turned lopsided in favour of the family matriarch who at one point was sued by her three adult children for their fair share of the family wealth.
The drama unfolded on Tuesday when Hope Welker, second daughter of Gina Rinehart, Australia's richest person, officially dropped the lawsuit she and two other adult siblings filed against their mother.
It was like watching reruns of the 1980s hit soaps Dynasty and Falcon Crest as the estranged children earlier sought to remove her as head of a family trust Ms Rinehart's father opened for his grandchildren.
Sydney Supreme Court Justice Paul Brereton allowed Ms Welker to withdraw from the lawsuit, leaving only two complainants - her siblings Bianca Rinehart and John Hancock. But Ms Welker said the nature of the litigation is something she is not prepared to withstand personally, and she is not interested in taking either side in the litigation.
However, from documents filed by the mining magnate's lawyers, it turned out that Mr Hancock himself was ready to abandon the case even before it was filed since he was secretly seeking payments from his mother in exchange for not pushing through with the lawsuit.
"I've made it pretty clear I'm open to an arrangement, particularly as I've had to wait an extra 10 years than the younger girls who have always been treated better anyway," the email from Mr Hancock read. The email was sent three days before the family trust fund was due to vest in September 2011.
Mr Hancock sought A$15 million sorry payment from his mother for the shabby manner he has been treated the past 15 years, and another $3 million offshore payment yearly. He did not inform his sisters that he was secretly negotiating with his mother because of his doubt over the intellectual capacity to read and understand tax legislation related to capital gains tax.
As the vesting date, which was set on the 25th birthday of Ginia Rinehart - who took Gina's side in the court case - approached, Mr Hancock threatened to up his settling fee by $25,000 until a deal would be reached.
As part of the family feud, Ms Rinehart subpoenaed Fairfax Media journalist Adele Ferguson to hand over her interview notes, emails and texts with her son. Ms Ferguson wrote an unauthorised biography of Australia's richest person and interviewed Mr Hancock to complete the book.
However, Ms Ferguson said she will not reveal her sources or disclose the source of information she used to write the biography. Fairfax Metro editorial director Garry Linnel backed Ms Ferguson on her stand despite the court subpoena.
Last week, Forbes magazine said Ms Rinehart retained her richest person in Australia title, while Ms Welker pulled out from the litigation because she was down to her last $60,000 which was what led to her decision to surrender.