Ever since Hugo Kelly and I made plenty
of mischief at the 1999 PBL AGM just four days after James Packer’s $10
million wedding to Jodie Meares, Australia’s richest and most powerful
family have seemingly worked hard to avoid further encounters.

This
may be cynical but knowing my interest in the two previous John Fairfax
AGMs, in 2000 the meetings of both media companies started at 11am in
Sydney on November 3. Thankfully, James Packer didn’t believe in giving
a chairman’s address so we were able to have a robust exchange,
including extracting Kerry Packer’s Crikey mug quote – “do you
deliberately set out to be offensive or is it just natural?” – and get
down to Fairfax where Jack Tilburn was still on his feet delivering his
opening burst. Check out the report on both meetings here.

Babies,
lack of cash and Crikey commitments contributed to no-shows by the
editor in 2001, 2002 and 2003. However, Hugo Kelly attended in 2003, although I was too disorganised to arrange a proxy in time, and Neal Woolrich did the job in 2001 and 2002.

In
2004 we had the very cynical move of scheduling the PBL AGM to clash
with the all-important News Corp vote in Adelaide on the move to
America, which was clearly designed to avoid the entire group of media
reporters. However, Crikey’s Glenn Dyer was still able to attend and
file as you can see here.

This
year’s timing is also a little suspicious after I announced plans to
get back into the AGM game after the sale of Crikey. The Crikey Daily
on September 7 revealed that Gunns had accepted my nomination to run
for their board and the AGM would be held in Launceston at 10.30am on
Thursday, October 27.

Lo and behold, PBL releases its notice of meeting on September 26
and announces the AGM will start at 11am on October 27, probably about
the time Crikey will be giving the 5 minute spiel to the assembled
Greenies and tree-loppers at Gunns HQ.

This obviously makes it
rather difficult to get to Sydney to resume hostilities with the
Packers after a regrettable five year absence. Alas, we’ll have to be
satisfied with the Seek AGM on November 9 when James Packer will chair
his maiden public meeting in Melbourne. The 3pm start is even nice and
convenient for the Crikey publishing schedule.

The Packers are clearly sensitive about Crikey. Remember when they banned
Justin McMurray from attending the 2003 full year results briefing and
then, of course, we got our website and email completely banned from
all PBL offices last year. Then again, maybe this is just another crazy
Crikey conspiracy theory as PBL’s AGM scheduling has been pretty
consistent over the years:

1998: October 29
1999: October 26
2000: November 3
2001: October 31
2002: October 31
2003: October 30
2004: October 26
2005: October 27

Mark
Latham recently asked why I’d never run for the PBL board, so maybe
it’s time to commit to a Packer board tilt at the 2006 AGM and
therefore ensure a belated reunion. The only problem is that Kerry’s
37% stake makes it all a forgone conclusion.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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