John Elliott’s booze-up, the Packer tape at Star City and a falling out between Rupert and Kerry Stokes are just some of the things in this week’s frontwindow column, Crikey’s answer to the Fin Review’s Rear Window.

It’s been a busy week on the shareowner front as we’ve emailed about 140 companies seeking information on their board nomination rules.

Already our plans to run for the Qantas board are in doubt because they have the toughest rules of any company we’ve discovered so far. A candidate must come up with 100 shareholders offering signed support for the candidacy – a tall order because of the sheer logistics.

This is doubly annoying because we found a good candidate – a physician with a PHD no less – but will still campaign against cash for comment at the Qantas AGM and also suggest they relax their board nomination rules.

Fairfax and Foster’s have both been playing hardball with us by refusing to provide the board nomination information on the grounds that we were not shareholders at the time. After they spent many hours coming up with this response we simply got friends who were shareholders to ask.

This has inspired us to call for candidates to stand and point out all the deficiencies in the Fairfax board in one of our business stories on crikey this week. It really is time that the Packer and Murdoch stooges were cleared off the Fairfax board but does anyone know a good Melbourne-based newspaper executive who could stand.

Hillary has maintained her tremendous standard of copy and we’d encourage you all to read him/her from top to bottom. I certainly did not know that Dennis Napthine had done a deal with Phil Gude to vote for him if the leadership spilt in return for being Premier Gude’s deputy.

With the Sunday program’s Helen Dalley working up a profile on Daily Telegraph editor-in-chief Col Allan we felt obliged to remind readers what he is like be republishing our “pissing in the sink” sealed section from March and the profile we ran in the first issue of Crikey in February. Whatever you think, please don’t feel sorry for Col in any circumstances because he, more than anyone else I know in the media, deserves to get some of his own medicine. He really is one of life’s arseholes – but a great newspaperman (when sober) all the same.

Our story on the North takeover by Rio Tinto really is sad because it is yet another blow to Melbourne’s status as a corporate centre. Australia’s woeful foreign investment performance just gets worse. Check it out.

We’ve also got a lively business gossip column covering “the Packer tape” at Star City, John Elliott’s latest boozed-up disgrace, a possible falling out between Murdoch and Kerry Stokes and the Australian connection of the Texan company which slaughters old growth Californian redwoods.

Shareowner.com.au will be cranking up from here on leading into the AGM season so check it out later in the week. Don’t forget that your user name is your full email address and get in touch with Con and [email protected] if you’ve forgotten your password.

We’ve reworked all the “About Us” and “Philosophy” section on shareowner and also published our “legals policy” which is relevent for something happening in NSW this week which we can’t quite talk about just yet. Stay tuned all the same. Life is about to get a whole lot more interesting over the next few weeks.

SEALED SECTION: THE REAL SHANE WARNE

By Stephen Mayne

Former Warnie Team-maaaaate

Crikey reckons that Shane Warne has got his just desserts losing the vice-captaincy for his off-field conduct – and we can say this with some experience having played with and against the All-Australian lout at school.

You see Warnie was at Mentone Grammar in 1987 – the same year Crikey was finishing at Ivanhoe Grammar. We first clapped eyes on Warnie on one drizzly Saturday morning when he walked past our dressing room and said something like “C’mon boys, let’s nail these bunnies.” Hi mate, nice to meet you we all thought.

Needless to say, Mentone’s first 11 did just that – but Crikey did survive three fizzing leggies from Warnie and took a single before throwing away his wicket at the other end next over.

Anyway, because Crikey’s English teacher and cricket coach was on the All Grammars selection panel, we snuck into the combined Grammars team which was captained by Warnie who had successfully led Mentone to the championship.

This meant I got to play three matches under Warnie’s captaincy. He was one of those guys who made you walk tall with his infectious confidence and exceptional talent. He’d love to crack gags, play up and be one of the lads.

I bumped into him a couple of times in 1988 – the lout was driving a hotted up Cortina by this time – and then lost touch until the grand opening of the Crown Entertainment Complex on May 8 1997. Warnie, who was one of Lloyd Williams’s best mates and heroes, was on what seemed like the head table with Eddie McGuire and Ian Healy – the man Warnie says had the most positive influence on him in the Australian team. Anyway, I bowled up to him at Crown after a few too many wines and he was quite pleasant – even appearing to remember me.

A few weeks later Herald Sun sports reporter Ron Reed was asked to do a profile on Warnie but the lout was being thoroughly unco-operative, as apparently is his trademark with the press. Features editor Brian Walsh asked me to do a break out on Warnie’s finances so I simply rang Lloyd, got the details of Warnie’s investment in the All Stars Cafe at Crown and postulated as to how many millions he was worth. Word filtered back later to Ron Reed that his profile piece was okay but Warnie was fuming about my break out. The lad seemed a bit precious. How dare anyone speculate about his personal finances.

Anyway, last year I met a senior journalist in Sydney who has a friend in DFAT (the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade). She tells the story of Warnie propositioning her in a New Zealand hotel room. I won’t go into the detail but it was Sam Newmanesque in its daring – along the lines of “what do you thing of this”. Clearly Warnie had no concept that Foreign Affairs refers to the Australian government and he thought he could treat this diplomatic person like some English nurse he met in a bar.

Rival Aussie leg spinner Stuart MacGill hs found Warnie to be very unfriendly and subsequently hates the guy so he’ll be really happy to watch the fall from grace that came with the Mirror’s expose on Warnie’s phone sex harrassment of an English nurse.

One can only speculate how many other times Warnie – who is married with children – has callously gone on the prowl when on tour. Counting the conquests on tour is apparently one of the trademarks of being in the Australian team – but Warnie is arguably the most daring and this has finally caught up with him. You deserved to be sacked son. Pull your head in.

Feedback to [email protected] is most welcome. I hope none of you thought Warnie was a clean living lad who’d just suffered some bad luck. Don’t forget he was also on the payroll of an Indian bookie. So Just What Was Kerry Packer Up To

We all know that Kerry Packer’s behaviour can get pretty interesting. Afterall, this is a guy who allegedly once shot for fun in the general director of a chopper carrying Paul Keating. He also got into a fist fight with former partner Warren Anderson and was mentioned in dispatches during the trial of Hollywood celebrity hooker Heidi Fleiss.

So what do we make of this story that AAP carried on Friday?

“The head of surveillance at Sydney’s Star City Casino said today he was unaware of an alleged incident on video tape featuring media mogul Kerry Packer.

Casino Surveillance director Ron Harrax was asked about the existence of such a tape at a New South Wales parliament inquiry into the operations of the casino.

Mr Harrax told the budget estimates hearing that inspectors at the casino only kept tapes for longer than seven days when they were investigating a breach of security, complaint, or other incident.

“Why then do records of your offices and you department have reference to evidence titled the Kerry Packer tape?” upper house Liberal MP John Hannaford asked Mr Harrax.

“I’m not aware of a tape that’s titled Kerry Packer,” Mr Harrax replied.

Hmmm. What could this be about? I can remember a story about Packer being particularly obnoxious at the Australian Golf club in Sydney. Miranda Devine on the Daily Telegraph got the story and was all set to write it up in her column when the Packers suddenly did some deal with the Murdochs which meant it was not an opportune time to have a go. So Miranda dropped the column. Because he sues so much, most people are reluctant to call a spade a spade with the Packers. But here at Crikey we are quite happy to say that he can be rather rude and obnoxious at times. An educated guess would suggest that is exactly what he was being on this mystery “Packer tape” at Star city, if such a thing even exists.

Groping Jack Back On The Piss

Speaking of obnoxious types, John ‘pig’s arse’ Elliott is back in the wars for his offensive behaviour whilst under the influence. One “colorful Melbourne gambling identity” told Crikey a few months back that whenever he sees Elliott after about 10pm at night he runs the other way.

You see Big John fancies himself as a great lover. He even gloated of his prowess to a female journalist during the last federal election campaign and was dutifully written up in The Daily Telegraph’s P13 column.

Now John has copped it in the Herald Sun which carried a story this week by Michael Gleeson that referred to more outrageous behaviour. The AFL Players Association chief executive Rob Kerr has written to Elliott demanding that he apologise to a female AFLPA employee for conduct unbecoming at last Monday’s All-Australian dinner. Johnny Worsfold, now on the coaching staff at Carlton, apparently knows the young lady in question and was appalled by Elliott’s conduct unbecoming.

Carlton legend David “Swan” McKay got stuck into Elliott on ABC radio on Saturday, labelling him a disgrace and advising the media to ignore him so that he’ll go away.

A joint reform ticket of Swan McKay and fellow Elliott-hater Mike Fitzpatrick would be great to see at this year’s Carlton AGM.

Stokes v Murdoch

The relationship between Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Stokes has always been one that sparked dark murmurings over the years. Conspiracy theorists, totally wrong of course, reckoned Little Kerry was a compliant little warehouser for Rupert. These days it must be a little more strained with Stokes’s private company agreeing to kick in $3 million in sponsorship to help save South Sydney next year. Souths were thrown out of Rupert’s ailing rubgy league competition this year and is fighting it tooth and nail through the courts.

There was quite a famous clash between Lachlan Murdoch and Souths supporter Andrew Denton at James Packer’s wedding last year which was clearly evident in Denton’s vicious dig at Rupert during The Logies.

Now it seems Denton and dope smoker Mike Whitney have persuaded Kerry to part with $3 million of his hard earned to help save Souths and remind Rupert of the ongoing headaches from the $700 million he blew on the melodrama called “How I Stuffed Rubgy League”.

The Telegraph, never a paper to be biased, has been stoicly reporting the Souths court case each day. Heightening the Murdoch pain must be the surging Seven share price. Murdoch and Stokes go way back but the Murdochs must be spitting chips they sold their 15 per cent of Seven in 1998 at about $4.50 a share. The stock is now pushing $8 and Rupert has missed out on more than $100 million. Ouch.

Satellite disaster

The ailing pink group known as the Satellite group wanted a high profile so they appointed gay celebrity doctor Kerryn Phelps as chairman. In a classic example of the power of television in the modern age, the AMA then went for Kerry as their new national president to give them a voice in government. Now Kerryn is getting sledged left, right and centre by Satellite’s loud mouthed and thankfully ousted founder Greg Fisher. The question is whether the AMA is now regretting taking on its celebrity leader.

The Facts of a dud

The Market Facts group really cornered the media market for telling people what mortgage rates were doing and how much you’d save or lose every time official interest rates changed. Now it seems the hard facts of this little financial information outfit is that its float has been an absolute disaster for new investors. The shares were offered at 50c last year but are now wallowing around 20c. One wonders how much that must be costing the average investor a month.

Billabong: surfie chick gets done in by Pembo and the boys

Gary Pemberton has joined Peter Smedley, Ross Wilson, Bob Joss and Alan Jackson as a humble manager who now threatens to make it onto the Rich List courtesy of the bonanza Billabong float.

Pembo, a thoroughly likeable chap who made his name as CEO of Brambles and then went on to do a great job as chairman of Qantas, picked up 15 per cent of the company when the former wife of founder Gordon Merchant sold her 49 per cent stake for a measly $24.6 million in 1998.

Poor old Rena Merchant could have been sitting on a stake worth about $300 million if she’d hung on. Instead, Pembo has pocketed a quickfire $40 million. That’s a really nice wave to ride and Pembo must be delighted he chose to take it rather than stick with the odious gig of chairing SOCOG.

As for Qantas, we worry a bit with Margarent Jackson taking over from Pembo as chairman. Wasn’t she a director of Pacific Dunlop through the disaster years, a director of BHP when it blew up $5 billion and a director of our worst performing bank, ANZ. Hmmm.

The Californian Tree Murderers are here in Queensland

Did you know that the company which cuts down California’s giant old-growth redwoods has a couple of hundred million invested in Australia? Yep, that’s right. Dallas-based Maxxam Corporation bought the Pacific Lumber Company, which has been cutting down 100 metre redwoods for 133 years, in 1986. The Federal and Sate governments bought back 5600 acres for about $800 million in 1998 so it’s pretty valuable real estate they’ve got and the trees they’re still lopping fetch almost $500,000 a throw.

Anyway, Maxxam also owns an outfit called Kaiser Aluminium which used to own 45 per cent of Comalco but now has a 20 per cent stake in the giant Gladstone bauxite refinery which Crikey had the pleasure of touring in 1997. So if Australia’s greenies wanted to give their Californian brethren a helping hand, they could start by picketing the Gladstone refinery. Maxxam are one of the dodgiest listed companies in America. Last year they moved their AGM at short notice to a venue on the edge of a Texan state park that was 40 kilometres from the nearest hotel. As a result, the board survived some resolutions to reform their appalling governance practices because none of the key shareholders were able to turn up. Maybe Crikey should run for the Maxxam board next year?