One.Tel collapsed in May 2001 and cost the Packer family and PBL almost $500 million, but four years on the embarrassing revelations continue. The corporate plod is taking civil action against founder Jodee Rich and former One.Tel finance director Mark Silbermann, but all this achieved yesterday was an embarrassment for the Packers, as this report in The Australian reveals.

Australia’s two richest and most powerful families have worked hard to distance One.Tel from its two most prominent former directors, James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch, neither of whom took enough interest in the business.

One.Tel finance staffer Samantha Randall swore an affidavit that shone a favourable light on James Packer, claiming that the daily cash flow reports he was receiving were misleading. Lo and behold, she has now admitted to subsequently receiving $4,500 in “consultancy fees” from the private Packer company, Consolidated Press Holdings. Not a good look at all.

This also puts a new light on the hiring of Paul Barry on a big contract at 60 Minutes which was stitched up not long after Barry’s excellent One.Tel book came out, tipping an almighty bucket on Jodee Rich and largely exonerating the non-executive directors.

Given the relatively unfavourable biography of Kerry Packer by Barry in the 1990s, plus his Four Corners stitch-up over aggressive tax planning, some observers were amazed that Australia’s richest man would ever have him on the payroll, especially after about $500,000 was lost by PBL fighting Media Watch in court over the Richard Carleton bunfight.

Given what happened to Samantha Randall, maybe it was a way of expressing gratitude for the One.Tel book? In light of all this, it would be interesting to know exactly how much Barry is being paid at 60 Minutes. Presumably he’ll be safer than Shane Warne as Sam Chisholm does his best Jonathan Shier impersonation, slashing and burning his way across the Nine Network.

Peter Fray

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