Why does PBL need two new senior executives – unless something dramatic is being planned down the track?

Yesterday’s appointments of Ian Law, currently head of West Australian
newspapers, to run ACP Magazines, and Pat O’Sullivan, CFO at Optus, to
become Chief Operating Officer of PBL, have been presented as two men
skilled at controlling costs.

But the real story could be the speculation that this is a managerial
structure for an eventual split of the PBL business into media and
gaming, with Law to run the media business and John Alexander and Pat
O’Sullivan running the gaming business, with James Packer as executive
chairman of both companies.

Of
the two appointments, Ian Law’s raises the most questions. Law has a
reputation of being a tough manager, but he’s been operating in the
slow-moving Perth-based monopolist newspaper group, WA Newspapers.
There will inevitably be speculation that he’s being warehoused to run
Fairfax if the cross media laws change and PBL can swoop on its Sydney
rival.

And it’s only ten months or so after Law took WAN into a
joint venture with PBL to take the sluggish and underperforming Hoyts
Cinema business off Consolidated Press’s books, thus relieving the
Packer family of an embarrassing and under-performing investment.