CEO Stephen Mulholland’s anti-Fairfax, anti-Oz journo rant on that
South African website brings to mind my only personal experience of
him, when I was The Australian Financial Review correspondent
in Hong Kong from 1993-96. I can’t quite remember when it was – perhaps
mid-94 – but I received an unsolicited phone call in HK from Mulholland
in Sydney who declared, in order, that 1) I was one of Fairfax’s many
fine correspondents 2) his son (also called Steve) would soon be coming
to Hong Kong from college in Texas (the same one his Dad went to) for
work experience at a US law firm, Coudert Brothers 3) that in his
experience, the “Far East” was a very expensive place, 4) Fairfax was
covering my living expenses in Hong Kong and 5) could I suggest
appropriate lodgings for his son for 2-3 months whilst he was in HK?

unstated message from the CEO was clear. It was an offer I couldn’t
refuse, and for several months later that year, between regional
assignments, I played big brother for Young Steve. He turned out to be
a pleasant-enough gentle giant of a naive South African kid who despite
his insistent father’s near-daily angst-ridden (for young Steve)
telephone calls imploring him to embrace the law and be a
widely-successful professional like Dad simply wanted to go back home
and be a game park ranger in the then still new South Africa. Young
Steve eventually moved on (to Coudert’s office in Singapore, where I
think he stayed with the Fairfax correspondent there, again presumably
“arranged” by Dad) but he had left a suitcase of clothes behind with
me, and “could you drop them off with my Dad next time you are in
Australia?” Naturally I agreed and a couple of months later I took his
bags to Oz, paid the excess baggage, and deposited them up to pere in
his English club-like eyrie at Fairfax’s then new complex near Darling
Harbour. I left his son’s luggage with him but his secretary said he
wanted to see me briefly to “give me a present.” He came out, shook my
hand – “Ellis isnt it?” – and handed me half-a-dozen table mat
reproductions of Sydney Morning Herald front pages “for your kindness.”

can’t remember what I did with them, but I do remember calculating that
Fairfax shareholders unwittingly saved the Mulholland family probably
about US$40,000 worth of accommodation that year, plus wearing the cost
of the tablemat gift to me, which when measured alongside the
well-documented excesses of Big Steve Mulholland’s then boss, Conrad
Black, was probably a dodged bullet.

CRIKEY: Meanwhile, some interesting comments have been posted in
response to Mulholland’s anti-Oz rant – check them out below the
original piece here.