Crikey has written in the past about possible conflicts of interest that could arise for two of Fairfax’s best business commentators, Alan Kohler and Stephen Bartholomeusz. Interestingly, both popped up as possibilities in their most recent Saturday columns.

Kohler’s column was all about the attempt to sell Pacific Hydro. This is interesting because Pacific Hydro is being advised by Carnegie Wylie, the advisory and investment house which has taken a majority interest in Kohler’s new investment publication, which will be launched in May. Kohler’s column certainly didn’t sing the praises of his new business partners and we understand he didn’t get a briefing from them either. In fact, so sensitive is Kohler to this potential conflict of interest that he had sworn off talking to Mark Carnegie and John Wylie for any Fairfax column or Inside Business story. (We should also point out for the record that one of Crikey’s new owners, Eric Beecher, has an involvement in Kohler’s new venture).

This is part of what we wrote when we broke the story of Kohler’s new venture and business partners on December 2:

The only concern we have with the move is the involvement of Mark Carnegie and John Wylie, two high profile and sometimes controversial investment bankers. For instance, is it now less likely Kohler would write a Fairfax column damning the forthcoming float of Macquarie Radio when Mark Carnegie owns 20 per cent of that business?

Similarly, if John Wylie reclaims his gig from T1 and gets to lead the T3 sale process, will Kohler columnise about the excessive fees this gravy train sale process will undoubtedly create? Kohler is now being bankrolled by a couple of important corporate advisers and investors, so his Fairfax masters will need to keep an eye on this.

Then you have the question of Bartho’s 21-year-old son, Simon Bartholomeusz, taking a part-time research position with the institutional advisory outfit, Proxy Australia. Bartho’s Saturday column sang the praises of a report produced by Proxy Australia, calling it a “valuable contribution” and a “comprehensive discussion paper”.

Now Crikey has read the report and happens to agree with Bartho. However, this is what we wrote about Bartho on November 26 last year:

Stephen Bartholomeusz is the most scrupulous business commentator in the country, so we have no doubt he will carefully manage any conflicts that could arise from his son taking a part-time job with the Melbourne-based corporate governance adviser Proxy Australia.

Now that we’ve put this on the record, there is now even less prospect you will see a sudden surge in commentary from Bartho on the importance of proxy advisers for institutions. In fact, we reckon Bartho unfairly gives governance advisers a bad rap by constantly calling them “activists”.

We understand that Bartho has informed the appropriate people at The Age about his son’s position, but it might have been a good option for him to have also informed his readers on Saturday.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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