Anne Keating must think she’s being stalked by Crikey. The former PM’s sister has faced questions at the AGMs of IAG and John Singleton’s STW Holdings over the years, and yesterday it was her re-election to the board of Macquarie Leisure that saw some public debate between us.
Unlike some other Millionaire Factory satellites such as Macquarie Infrastructure Group, Macquarie Leisure does appear to have a clear majority of independent directors, led by the father figure of Australian television production, chairman Neil Balnaves.
My question for Anne Keating yesterday was about her multiple roles inside the Macquarie empire. If she was merely an independent at Macquarie Leisure, that would be fine, but she’s also taking some coin on the board of Macquarie Goodman. Would she be reluctant to sack Macquarie Bank as the manager of Macquarie Leisure for fear of losing her other gig with the Millionaire Factory? Naturally, she said there was no problem and she was completely independent.
The same goes for the 75-year-old former chairman of KPMG, George Bennett, who sits on Macquarie Leisure and Macquarie Office Trust as an independent director.
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The only independent I didn’t have a go at was a chap called Bruce Scott, who sidled up after the meeting and said he lived next door to my aunt and uncle in Brisbane and attended my cousin’s wedding last year. Phew, that was a close call.
Macquarie Leisure has certainly been a stand-out performer over the past four years as its share price has more than quadrupled since it bottomed at about 50c in September 2001. And it’s no coincidence about S11 because the last four years has seen renewed focus on domestic tourism, something that has particularly helped the Gold Coast, where Dreamworld is going from strength to strength.
The securities surged another 10c to $2.26 yesterday after the announcement of a $56 million water-based theme park next to Dreamworld, which will compete with Village Roadshow’s Seaworld and Movieworld.
Conflict of interest is never far from the surface at Macquarie, and Balnaves put his hand up yesterday and declared that he was not involved in the current negotiation to extend Big Brother’s deal with Dreamworld for another three years. Balnaves was the founder of Big Brother producer Southern Star and remains a big shareholder in its new owner, Southern Cross Broadcasting.
Macquarie Leisure CEO Greg Shaw said he hoped to have a new deal with Big Brother inked in the next couple of weeks. Big Brother has been a bonanza for Macquarie Leisure and the clowns at Fox Studios who missed out on the original tender by refusing to put enough money in must be really regretting their short-sightedness. The write-downs of more than $200 million could have been partially avoided, it seems.