Ron Walker is clearly a dedicated Primelife deputy chairman. Despite
only attending 10 of the 15 board meetings in 2004-05, the big red head
sprinted home from his Commonwealth Games talk at the CHOGM meeting in
Malta on Saturday to attend the AGM of the struggling retirement
village company in Sydney yesterday.

And he must have been delighted when Crikey walked into the Wesley
Centre shortly after 2pm and started asking questions about his
attendance record and how many times he had showed up in the boardroom,
rather than just attended by phone as he apparently usually does with
Football Federation of Australia board meetings.

Primelife chairman Robert champion de Crespigny was far more polite
to Crikey than Walker at the John Fairfax AGM in Sydney ten days ago, but the former Normandy Mining boss did
manage to wriggle out of answering quite a few questions.

Asked whether he and Ron were ever going to get to the mooted 19.9%
Primelife stake that was trumpeted at the time they came on board,
Crespigny said that was a matter for the two individual concerns. Er,
yes, that’s why I was asking.

However, corporate governance is slowly progressing at Primelife. CEO
Jim Hazel revealed the company had just given Walker and Crespigny
notice that their $6 million loan, complete with an attractive 11.5%
interest rate, would be repaid shortly.

The lack of a full takeover bid for Primelife when Babcock & Brown
got together with its favourite rich client, Joe Ross, to take out Ted
Sent’s 25% two years ago stake was another issue on which Crespigny and
B&B representative Peter O’Connell both refused to bite. ASIC
should be all over Babocks and Ross for the way they appear to have
acted in concert on plays including Ausdoc, Commander Communications
and Primelife.

Danny Simmonds from law firm Atanaskovic & Hartnell put together
the two vehicles that carved up Sent’s stake and they also had the same
structure and financier. Babcock’s CEO Phil Green told The Australian a few weeks back that “if the board was concerned they would have disclosed.”

Australian law limits associated shareholders from going above 20%
without making a full takeover bid, so I asked about board concerns
yesterday and Crespigny would only say that this was a matter for
others. Indeed, let’s hope the corporate plod is all over it.

Primelife finally got around to announcing a new project in Bunbury
yesterday, but they won’t have a tough and controversial Hudson Conway
veteran to look after it. Crikey was about to ask about Graham Manie,
Primelife’s general manager of construction, yesterday but Crespigny
pre-empted the question by saying he had resigned that morning after
doing a great job cleaning up Ted Sent’s mess.

Manie featured on the front pages of the Melbourne papers 10 years ago
when the Victorian Fraud Squad was investigating Hudson Conway over
alleged blackmail threats involving the aborted new headquarters for
the now broken up and privatised Gas & Fuel Corporation.

Alas, nothing ever came of it so Manie’s name was cleared and he was
free to oversee the construction of Crown Casino and then join his old
mate Ron Walker to help clean up the hugely aggressive building plans
of Primelife, which is still quite a can of worms.