Kerry Packer’s latest executive favourite, John Alexander, is a busy, busy man, as Freddy Krueger explains.

What a week or so it’s been for the PBL and ACP supremo, John Alexander.

From hosting the Gourmet Traveller swish do Monday night of last week (complete with a homeless person as a free-loader), to sitting Sphinx-like at the PBL annual meeting, to swanning around Flemington while again hosting a swish do, this time the PBL marquee on Derby Day.

Then there was the launch of Madison magazine, the new publication from ACP for women without children (and is the TV series going to be called SWOB-single without brats, or Married Without Brats?).

There was also a boardroom chat or two, a couple of management meetings, including chats with leading publishers.

A lunch in Melbourne with News Ltd and Business Sunday commentator, Terry “His Master’s Voice” McCrann, ostensibly to catch up on old times. But McCrann would be a big catch for ACP and Nine, replacing Max Walsh in stature and readability (although Max did have a tendency to predict every one of the last 10 recessions we didn’t have)

As I said a busy, busy week.

He wasn’t sighted at the Andrew Olle lecture by friend and mentor, Chris Anderson, in Sydney on Friday night.

Listening on the ABC radio in Sydney Saturday morning it sounded a good chat by Anderson, now a PBL director and before that, running Optus and when he was at Fairfax, Alexander’s boss at the Sydney Morning Herald.

Perhaps Alexander had to fly south early for the Derby Day shindig at Flemington.

There he chatted quite intimately with another mentor, Sam Chisholm and wife Sue. Sam is the newest (and some would say one of the oldest) directors on the PBL board.

But there was a picture of him in Monday’s AFR which discussed the launch of the new women’s magazine Madison from ACP, and another photo in Thursday’s Media section in The Australian.

Basically the Neil Shoebridge story found this reaction from the advertising industry. ‘No need for the new publication, but ACP will do it well’!

Our John though is still a shy and retiring type, not wanting much in the way of public exposure.

For example, in a glossy new promotional magazine from Network Services, the magazine distribution and subscription management arm of ACP (and PBL), there’s a positive message from Network boss, Phil Parsons, in the Foreword, who is pictured.

Next to him there’s another upbeat message from John Alexander, but unlike Phil, there’s no picture. The absence of Alexander’s photograph is odd, the’re a big area of white space that he would not allow published in an ACP magazine!

The affair at Gourmet Traveller a week ago last Monday night at Fratelli Fresh, the trendy inner Sydney Italian food eatery and wholesaler, was to reveal the magazine’s 2004 Restaurant of the Year awards.

But a gatecrasher, a homeless man, put a bit of a dent on the tone of proceedings. A well-spoken chap, he managed an entree before being spotted, but the heartless types turfed him out of the fiunction, back onto the street, homeless!

And remember the big play Fairfax’s Good Weekend cover story profile of Alexander made of him helping feed Sydney’s homeless! Obviously not on awards night for Gourmet Traveller magazine!

It was reported in the Sauce column of the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, but ACP was full of the ‘defiling’ of the previous night’s affair last Tuesday. JA wasn’t amused it seems. But could there have been something else to cause the upset? Perhaps it was going to Melbourne.

Alexander’s temper is not a nice sight to see. Controlled is our John, so you don’t hear his displeasure, you feel it in the lash of the averted gaze, or the “death stare” at meetings. Or the non-return of emails, or the long periods, months, of silence, as some at PBL are now experiencing.

The launch of Madison midweek was a typically smooth ACP, Deeta Colvin affair. No real indignities here to ruin careers. And ACP is very confident this will work, with partner, Hearst of the US (also the new partner in the UK).

Former Nine publicist Wendy Squires has got a gig on Madison as one of the editors. Average performer at Nine, so it’s back to a bolt hole at Park Street. Good to see how JA looks after to the ones he lurves. Don’t mention The Block!

But as the magazine industry awaits the next set of circulation and readership figures later this month, there’s growing unease within ACP about the continuing problems in NSW, and to a lesser extent, Victoria, with the distribution of magazines to newsagents and other outlets.

The Network Services/ACP driven changes and joint venture with Gordon Gotch isn’t working smoothly.

First Fleet isn’t doing well in its deliveries. Newsagent complaints are not falling, especially about handling the delivery of subscription copies of ACP and other magazines handled through Network where there are more changes underway.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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