We mentioned Wesfarmers and Telstra
director Charles Macek yesterday as someone who’s positioning himself
to chair the Future Fund. But the Fin Review also floated an interesting name this week – private equity guru Bill Ferris.

wouldn’t be a bad choice as he literally “wrote the book” on corporate
governance when heading up the Australian Investment Managers
Association from 1995 to 1997, when the Yannon scandal at Coles Myer
was a huge issue.

Peter Costello obviously quite likes him as he
appointed Macek to the Telstra board in 2001 and also made him chairman
of the Financial Reporting Council. It will be important that any
Future Fund chairman not have existing funds management gigs and Macek
certainly doesn’t have that after his surprise resignation as IOOF
chairman in 2003.

But any Future Fund chairman will need a very
strong political antenna and lots of media savvy. But some critics
don’t reckon Macek has got that. A few months ago he ran all out to
become president of the Richmond Football Club but was heavily defeated
by the incumbents, despite the woeful record of the Tigers in recent

Similarly, with Melbourne’s seemingly inexorable decline
as a financial centre, would it be appropriate to have a chairman based
in Bleak City? Sydney is now the centre of the financial universe and
someone like Bill Ferris is a mover and shaker in Sin City, although
he’s probably too close to the private equity industry to make a
suitable Future Fund chairman.

The government has some serious
decisions to make about the Future Fund, including the board, CEO,
location and, most importantly, the legislation spelling out its
mandate to manage what will quickly become Australia’s biggest single
asset pile. An out of town chairman is not particularly desirable so
Peter Costello and his proud Victorian mate Michael Kroger will
probably have to accept that the Future Fund should be based in Sydney
and chaired by a Sydneysider.

Peter Costello supposedly doesn’t
like the fast-talking spivs that Sydney produces, although his closest
business confidante is said to be the heir to the Packer fortune. Maybe
James Packer could suggest a couple of suitable Future Fund chairman
candidates to his mate.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey