The Austrim Nylex AGM had a very unusual interloper in Melbourne today.

Herman Rockerfeller is a serious young bloke with a rounded Bostonian accent and a serious amount of capital.

He represents an outfit called Invia Custodian Pty Ltd, which holds serious equity in a serious number of companies – at least 40 in Australia.

And this morning, he fronted at the AGM of struggling former market darling Austrim Nylex, which has seen its shares plummet from $3 plus to 30 cents in little over a year.

No doubt the Rockerfellers don’t like seeing their capital investments slaughtered by the likes of Alan “Knuckles” Jackson and the Austrim team.

They own 13,200 capital notes issued by the company – 1.32% of the total – and are unlilely to see a return on their devalued investment for a long, long time. If ever.

But young Rockerfeller had come not to bury Caesar, but to praise him. “I came here to congratulate the board for making the tough decisions,” he told the meeting.

“I think you have got the right people for the job,” he said, singling out for praise one executive, a Jonathan Lee, a longtime plastics man who joined the company recently.

Striking a blow for corporate accountability, he concluded by asking board members to stand up and advise the meeting the qualities they each brought to the company.

The Rockerfeller cameo at today’s fiery four hour meeting in Melbourne was one brief highlight in an otherwise lamentable catalogue of embarrassment for the company.

Angry shareholders voted down the board’s contentious and totally inappropriate plan to give new managing director Peter Crowley 1 million options exercisable at a ridiculously low 50 cents, with super easy performance hurdles.

The floor also voted down the reappointment to the board of failed former General Manager David Stobart and discredited former Pasmico Finance Director, Bronwyn Constance.

New chairman John Moule, who received a very rocky reception from furious stakeholders, acknowledged defeat on the floor and put the three issues to a full poll, which was won comfortably after lazy institutions largely either voted with the board or abstained.

Throughout the meeting, Moule treated shareholders with veiled contempt – refusing to even discuss the circumstances surrounding the sensational dumping of Alan Jackson, who was kicked out after punching the company’s then CEO at last year’s Christmas party.

Moule forecast a slow turnaround for the company, mired in debt after a series of disastrous acquisitions. Last year Austrim lost $269 million. The losses this year, he promises, will be less drastic, and under fierce questioning from the floor he reluctantly forecast a profit in 2003 of around $50 million.

Longsuffering shareholders – and that includes you Mr Rockerfeller – don’t hold your breath.

For a full account of all today’s fun, tune in to Crikey tomorrow.

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Peter Fray

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