Today’s papers are full of the
scandalous Tattersall’s shareholder lists which reveal just how much
wealth poker machine addicts in Victoria have transferred to one of the
world’s richest secret societies. Joan Kirner, the socialist left
Victorian premier who inexplicably gave Tattersall’s its licence for
free in 1991, should be ashamed of herself. The business is worth an
estimated $2 billion and about $1.5 billion of poker machine losses
will also have been distributed to the beneficiaries before next
month’s float.

Details of the float have been released this morning as you can see here.
The company is forecasting revenue of $2.52 billion in 2005-06 and
gross cash earnings (EBITDA) are tipped to be $229 million. There will
be 700 million shares on issue but only 100 million will be offered to
the public at $2.90 each.

So who are all these lucky recipients of the other 600 million shares, listed in full in The Australian’s
business section today? Well, there were 12 key beneficiaries in the
original will of George Adams, who died without any heirs in 1904. Four
lucky blokes were given 10% each. They were:

Lottery manager David Hastie (no Hasties appear in the lists)
Sweeps manager Elliott Grant (Stephen Grant has 9m shares)
George Adams’s brother William Adams (his great grandson William Adams junior has $76m worth of shares)
Business associate Thomas Lyons (associated with Tassyd Pty Ltd which has 39.12m shares worth $120m)

The second tier of beneficiaries with 5% each were:

Then Tasmanian Premier Edward Braddon
Chief secretary Sir Phillip Fysh
Backbenchers Alfred Page and Henry Rooke
Lawyers William Finlay and Gerald Barry
Unknowns John Curran and Henry Thorpe

The
big game is working out the connections between all these beneficiaries
and the entities with large parcels of shares on the public registers
contructed by Computershare for the . For some bizarre reason, the
Tasmanian papers appear to have missed the story altogether.

The Herald Sun
names William Adams jnr, a direct descendent of George’s brother
William Adams, as the biggest individual shareholder with an $80
million stake. He has just joined the Crikey Revised Wealth list but we
can’t bag BRW for missing it. Also joining the CRW List is
Sydney establishment figure Julien Playoust, whose stake is worth an
estimated $76 million, although it’s not clear which heir he is
associated with.

The Fin Review estimates that the Lyons
family stake of 39.12 million shares worth $120 million makes them the
largest shareholders, but this is presumably shared between many.

William
Adams is a trustee who was entitled to 5% of the profit over the years.
His fellow trustees are in the middle of a Supreme Court claim for an
additional $100 million payout, although two of them, chairman Ray
Hornsby and CEO David Jones, are listed as being the joint owners of
18.75 million shares worth an estimated $56 million based on an
indicative float price of $3 a share.

Diane Hewitt Vertigan is
listed as having 813,000 shares. She’s related to Dr Michael Vertigan,
the head of Victoria’s Treasury department when the Kennett government
decided to float Tabcorp in 1994 and lock in the Tattersall’s duopoly
pokies licence until 2012. Vertigan declared his interest at the time
and had no involvement in the negotiations of the day which saw Tatts
pay a restrospective licence fee estimated to be worth about $500
million.

This fee was negotiated to plug a hole in the budget
after the Kennett government collapsed to pressure from the racing
industry and agreed to slash the wagering tax by about 40% as part of
the negotiations leading up to the 1994 Tabcorp float, which saw annual
racing industry distributions rise from $112 million a year to $180
million a year after they were gifted 25% of Tabcorp’s gaming revenues.

Given
the huge social damage caused by Tabcorp and Tattersall’s over the past
13 years, it will be interesting to see whether either side of politics
has the stomach to take up Robin Cooper’s suggestion and not renew the
poker machine licences when they expire in 2012. Don’t hold your breath.