Despite all this talk about further legal battles facing Steve Vizard, yesterday’s Federal Court judgment means the focus now shifts to what the former funny man can and can’t do in the world of business. A ten-year ban does not stop him from being a consultant to The Communicate Trust and its sprawling empire of media, marketing, advertising, television and PR firms which have paid Vizard plenty over the past couple of years.
However, the big question is whether major corporate clients like National Australia Bank and Telstra will continue to deal with The Communicate Trust, which is fronted by Shaun Levin, the long-time Vizard mate who picked him up from the airport when he returned from his European holiday.
The stench surrounding Vizard really should put The Communicate Trust out of business, but corporates sometimes have a funny view of ethics – just look at the way the likes of Southcorp, Optus, Qantas, Telstra, the NRMA and the Commonwealth Bank continued to pay Alan Jones and John Laws after the cash for comment inquiry.
The Australian’s Lara Sinclair produced this story in the Media section yesterday which portrayed Levin as some sort of John Singleton figure, building an empire spanning various media and marketing interests. But in an email to us, Levin says he doesn’t aspire to be the next Singo: “He’s a one-off, and a very successful one. I don’t aspire to be the next anyone.” Maybe the better parallel would probably be Sydney-based companies Photon or The Communications Group (TCG), which is currently on the market as you can see here.
It’s not surprising that Vizard’s close mate and former Toorak neighbour Eddie McGuire has been connected to The Communicate Trust, which is attempting to work Melbourne’s clubby corporate and media scene to build a Bleak City equivalent of the marketing and adverting conglomerates in Sydney.
Meanwhile, Levin stands by his story that Vizard has no legal or beneficial interest in The Communicate Trust. Then how is Vizard remunerated for his role with Communicate? He’s not, Levin tells Crikey. “Steve has fulfilled many unpaid roles in his career – this is one of them. He saw merit in helping highly creative people in exciting new communications companies and encouraging them to spark off each other under a loose umbrella while maintaining their independence.” OK, next question. If Levin is the Trust’s major beneficiary, who are the others? I have no authority to disclose that, says Levin. “That is up to them.”
Levin, Vizard and McGuire were all part of that colourful circle which includes former Sausage Software CEO Wayne Bos, Rodney Adler and the court jester of HIH, Brad Cooper, who was Eddie’s running partner when he stormed the Collingwood board seven years ago.
As Gary Hughes revealed in The Age today, Levin actually spent three years on secondment at Adler’s FAI Insurance in the early 1990s working on film finance deals. When you also consider the string of unhappy former business partners of Vizard and Levin, why would anyone want to be associated with them?