The Australian was trying to stand by its splash about Sol Trujillo’s so-called conflicts of interest yesterday but once again they have been overshadowed by far worse conflicts of interest tolerated by the News Ltd culture.

Reporter Michael Sainsbury has been going harder than anyone against Trujillo and yesterday he alleged that Sol was fast-tracking a current business partner into a deal with Telstra. Telstra issued a strong rebuttal here, which included the following lines:

Telstra CEO, Mr Sol Trujillo, is not and never has been a business partner of Brightstar CEO, Mr Marcelo Claure. Telstra Chief Operating Officer, Mr Greg Winn, also is not and never has been a business partner of Mr Claure.

They merely have in common the fact that they each participated in a capital raising conducted this year by a company known as Silk Road Telecommunications. The investments by Mr Trujillo and Mr Winn were made prior to them commencing their appointments with Telstra.

Neither Mr Trujillo nor Mr Winn have any interest in Brightstar, and would not stand to financially benefit in any way from any relationship between Telstra and Brightstar. Brightstar’s Australian operation was incorporated in October 2004, prior to the appointment of both Mr Trujillo and Mr Winn.

Telstra is reviewing a commercial proposition put by Brightstar and will act in the best interests of Telstra’s shareholders.

Sainsbury’s follow-up on page two of The Australian today backs down from the “business partner” line and tried to claim Brightstar only commenced commercial operations “mid-year.” It also finished with the following line: “But The Australian understands the bid deal now under discussion was only brought to the table after Mr Trujillo began work at Telstra.”

So what? Trujillo was hired for his global contacts and if a big out-sourcing deal with a bloke he knows from the US can save shareholders some cash, then Telstra should do it. Sainsbury also led the business section today with another beat-up head-lined “Consultants flood in to Telstra”.
Shock, horror! Was he expecting the 30-year Telstra cardigans to help Sol come up with the big bang strategic review which will be unveiled on October 28?

Meanwhile, moving along to real conflict of interest stories, News Ltd lawyer Ian Philip was seriously embarrassed in the Federal Court yesterday when it was revealed that he leaked confidential information about Channel Seven’s bid for the NRL rights to rival bidder Telstra.

News Ltd owned 50% of the NRL and surely the committee members deciding on the rights had an obligation to maximise the price received by the NRL and respect confidentiality. It is thoroughly ironic that News Ltd is attempting to sully Sol Trujillo’s name with conflict of interest claims at the same time its own appalling conduct with Telstra, Foxtel and Seven is being aired in the Federal Court.

Check out The SMH’s coverage here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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