The Australian’s Michael West is one of the few financial journalists out there having a go at some of the business practices employed by the likes of Macquarie Bank and Babcock & Brown and today he’s come up with this fascinating story.

BRW doesn’t reckon retired Sydney anaesthetist Joe Ross makes the $110 million cut for its Rich List, but he’s certainly on the Crikey Revised Wealth (CRW) list. West has today revealed the scale of some of his investments and the curious raiding relationship he seems to have with hard-driving investment bankers Babcock & Brown. As all corporate players know, if associated parties acquire more than 20% of a company they must make a full takeover bid and after reading West’s story today, in my opinion Ross and Babcocks look pretty associated.

Together, the co-operative duo picked up more than 20% of both Prime Life and Commander Communications, which are headquartered across the road from each other and an earlier Crikey bunker in South Melbourne, but a full bid was never made to all shareholders. The relationship is believed to go even deeper than West revealed this morning, with some joint New Zealand players as well.

It was the NCSC’s pressure on John Elliott to make a full bid for Elders IXL in 1989-90 that eventually led to his corporate demise and it will be very interesting to see how far ASIC takes the amazing coincidences of Babcock and Ross in their investing.

Well done to Michael West for breaking this one open today. The former Margin Call columnist is under a little bit of pressure after Macquarie Bank sued the paper over a feature he wrote about its controversial dealings with Tasmanian gold miner Allstate Exploration.

After initially going quiet for a couple of months, The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell has clearly decided to fight fire with fire as Macquarie Bank has had to deal with a flurry of stories about Allstate over the following six weeks as follows:

Sept 24: MacBank mine deal wasn’t cleared
Sept 23: Macquarie accused of `monstering’ creditors
Sept 21: Macquarie misses out on lucrative Tasmania deal
Sept 15: Mine profits banked
Sept 10: MacBank facing gold deal backlash
Aug 26: Blunder leads miners to court
Aug 25: Bank in defence of mine scheme
Aug 20: Macquarie `pressured’ mine company on administrator
Aug 20: ASIC quiet on debt sale
Aug 20: All that glitters not gold
Aug 15: Macquarie wins lien’s share

That’s called cranking up the pressure. Macquarie Bank might just be regretting taking on Rupert in this way.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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