Reports have reached Crikey of stormy scenes on Southbank as Melbourne’s two
most powerful institutions and neighbours – the Herald Sun and Crown Casino – have declared war.

On 5 March, the Herald Sun ran big with the news that:

“Crown casino has forced the closure of its notorious Heat nightclub… The
third-floor dance club has been a favoured hangout of Melbourne’s underworld
figures… In August 2003, a horde of alleged gangland identities clashed
violently with Heat security staff after birthday celebrations for accused
hitman Victor Brincat… It is believed senior management at Crown and Kerry
Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting, the casino’s owner, were growing
increasingly concerned at some of the club’s clientele…

“The Herald Sun contacted
Crown yesterday over the club’s future, and within
hours the casino had issued a public statement confirming it was last
drinks… The casino is understood to have hired a recently retired
police detective
to monitor and record undesirable behaviour at the club to support the
case
that it be closed. But Crown spokesman Gary O’Neill yesterday refused
to reveal
the reasons behind Heat’s axing…”

And that’s where we understand things got interesting. Sources say Heat is
closing because of simple lease issues, not because of any alleged criminal
links. These same sources say the Crown statement said just that. And they
suggest that Hun editor Peter Blunden got very stroppy with the former Beazley staffer O’Neill
when this was reiterated and Crown’s statement spoiled what he thought was a
major exclusive.

Blunden is known to have a temper. You get more out of North Korea than you do
from the Herald Sun – and you have to be as careful with what you actually hear. However, it may
well be that a heated, lengthy and, er, assertive call from Blunden to O’Neill
turned into a full scale telephone war between News Limited heavies and the big
boys at PBL – even a certain Kerry Francis Bullmore Packer. And it may also be
that when all the calls were finished, Blunden was in a very different mood.
Maybe meek, even.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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