The Weekend Fin
had an interesting feature by Andrew Cornell assessing the Australian
directors’ club, based on some analysis done by Proxy Australia, a firm
which advises institutions on how to vote their shares at AGMs.

The
conclusion that the directors of Australia’s five biggest banks are at
the apex of corporate power is a defendable claim given that the banks
themselves have way too much power in Australia. But do the
non-executive directors really pull the levers — or is it the big bank
CEOs who’ve actually run the cartel so profitably ever since John
Howard sold the final 50.1% of the Commonwealth Bank for about $10 a
share in June 1996?

Proxy Australia has a stab at naming the
three most “connected” directors – former Amcor finance director David
Meiklejohn, National Foods and Lend Lease chairman David Crawford, and
Macquarie Bank executive chairman David Clarke.

While
connectedness is not the same as power, we’ve never ranked Meiklejohn
in our lists of influential directors. After all, Meiklejohn was never
a CEO and with WMC and SPC Ardmona being taken over, his remaining
board seats will comprise Paperlinx (chair), Gasnet (deputy chair) and
Onesteel.

Here’s an updated version of Crikey’s 15 most
powerful Australian directors, with outgoing NAB chairman Graham Kraehe
the most notable decliner and Margaret Jackson and John Schubert both
climbing the rankings:

1. Don Argus (chairman BHP-Billiton and Brambles, director AFIC)
2. Charles Goode (chairman ANZ and Woodside Petroleum, director Singapore Airlines)
3. David Gonski (chairman Coca-Cola Amatil, director Westfield, ANZ and Fairfax)
4. Margaret Jackson (chairman Qantas, deputy chair Southcorp, director ANZ and Billabong)
5. James Strong (chairman Woolworths and Insurance Australia Group)
6. David Crawford (chairman Lend Lease and National Foods, director BHP-Billiton, Westpac and Foster’s)
7. Rick Allert (chairman Coles Myer and Axa)
8. John Schubert (chairman Com Bank and Worley Group, director BHP-Billiton)
9. Peter Willcox (chairman AMP and Mayne)
10. David Clarke (chairman Macquarie Bank and various Macquarie offshoots)
11. Mark Johnson (chairman AGL and Macquarie Infrastructure Group, director Macquarie Bank)
12. Frank Swan (chairman Foster’s, director ComBank and National Foods)
13. Leon Davis (chairman Westpac, deputy chairman Rio Tinto)
14. John Morschel (chairman Rinker, director Rio Tinto, Singtel and Tenix)
15. Graham Kraehe (chairman Bluescope Steel and NAB, until September 2005)

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