Crikey has long wondered about the relationship between Australia’s most famous corporate crook, Alan Bond, and our most famous business export, Rupert Murdoch.

Back in the early 1980s, Bondy beat WMC and BHP to the prize when he spent $27 million buying 45% of Santos from Burmah Oil, then run by Campbell Anderson who later rose to be CEO of North Ltd.

But the South Australia government was so shocked by Bondy’s plans to double the price of gas they passed emergency legislation to force Bond Corporation back below 15%. This is where we hand over to Bondy himself from his 2004 biography:

With a 30-day time frame on the sale, I quickly looked at my options and decided that Rupert Murdoch and Sir Peter Abeles were the logical ones to approach to buy the 30% I was being forced to sell by the government. My thought process said: ‘You might be getting rid of me, but I’m going to leave you a legacy – two other individuals who you won’t be able to push around. I get the last laugh on this one.’

There was another reason for going to Rupert. He owned the major newspaper in South Australia and I thought this would stop the government doing other ridiculous things around the project. In turn the price of the shares would go up and I’d make more money on the remaining 15% I held. I said to both Rupert and Sir Peter: ‘I’ve got to sell these shares and I need to do a deal. This is the price and as soon as the deal is done you’ll make a lot of money.’

They agreed, and in two days the deal was done. They bought the whole lot and paid me cash. As I promised them, this turned out to be an astute investment for Murdoch and Abeles as they virtually doubled their money in only a few months.

CRIKEY: Fast forward to the mid 1990s and you have to ask yourself why Foxtel, then and still controlled in a management sense by Rupert Murdoch, appointed Bondy’s daughter Jody Fewster on a rumoured $1 million deal to establish Foxtel’s call centres through her company SFC? She was there working for founding CEO Mark Booth from day one, and you can see a reference to the connection on this website.

Was the Foxtel contract some sort of thank-you, or was Bondy’s daughter just brilliant at establishing call centres? Whatever the case, Bondy’s insights into the Santos dealings and the power of owning a monopoly newspaper are very interesting. Bondy came out of bankruptcy in March 1995 when he stumped up $3.2 million to settle debts worth $622 million.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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