Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett has been drawn into the Rinehart family feud with a court hearing the chairman of a corporate trustee company hoping to manage the family's $5 billion fund asked him if he is "known favourably to the matriarch".
Mr Kennett is a director of Equity Trustees, one of three companies vying to be appointed trustee of the fund after mining magnate Gina Rinehart stepped down amid allegations of misconduct made by three of her four children.
Emails tendered to the Supreme Court on Wednesday showed Mr Kennett emailed the board of directors on October 17 last year saying he had told one of Mrs Rinehart's "senior advisers" that Equity Trustees would "be happy to take on the task".
"This would be a wonderful commission if we were able to secure it," Mr Kennett wrote.
But he warned: "This must absolutely be kept confidential, if anything leaks our opportunity I have no doubt would be withdrawn."
Equity Trustees chairman James Anthony "Tony" Killen, emailed Mr Kennett, asking: "Are you known favourably with the matriarch?"
Under cross-examination by Bianca Rinehart and John Hancock's barrister, Christopher Withers, Mr Killen told the court the "matriarch" was Mrs Rinehart.
"I found out he was known to her, favourably I don't know," Mr Killen said.
He added that he knew Mrs Rinehart had offered Mr Kennett a directorship but he had declined it.
Mrs Rinehart's son John Hancock, 38, and eldest daughter Bianca Rinehart, 37, want Bianca to take over as trustee of the fund, which holds 23.4 per cent of Hancock Prospecting, the Rinehart family's flagship company.
But Mrs Rinehart and her youngest daughter Ginia, 27, want the court to appoint an independent "custodian trustee". Equity Trustees, Australian Executor Trustees and National Australia Trustees Limited have tendered for the job.
Bianca and John are opposed to the idea, claiming the proposed corporate managing trustees would be susceptible to interference and influence by Mrs Rinehart.
During the hearing the plaintiff children won the battle to admit into evidence documents they claim show Mrs Rinehart was in breach of her obligations as trustee when in September 2011 she warned them they would be bankrupted by capital gains tax should the trust vest on Ginia's 25th birthday.
The two eldest children claim the documents show the "extent or lengths" to which Mrs Rinehart "may go in seeking to exert her own will in respect of the trust".
Justice Paul Brereton also allowed into evidence documents that Bianca and John contend show Mrs Rinehart "prevailed" on top tier accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to prepare certain advice on the CGT issue.
In a reply to Mr Kennett's email, Equity Trustees managing director Robin Burns said he wanted to be the "meat in the family sandwich" because the "fees could be good" and "the exposure could be positive".
"The prospect of standing in the middle of the Rinehart family feud may be somewhat off-putting as one side or another is also certain to take umbrage at any outcome, but I believe the positives will outweigh any mud that one side could throw at the independent trustee," Mr Burns said.
The hearing continues.