Michael Pascoe writes:
The things you see when you haven’t got a
gun, or a Crikey. In the welter of Kerry Packer coverage, it could be construed
that PBL CEO John Alexander pulled off a
most extraordinary display of Machiavellian manoeuvring by ever so gently
putting James Packer in his place while apparently supporting him.
Recorded almost without comment was the
announcement by Alexander on 28 December that senior management and board
“enthusiastically supported” James Packer to take control of the company and were confident that he had a very clear
vision for its future development.
One paper in passing made the naff claim
that the market was reassured by the statement but otherwise this audacious display
of upwards management seemed to go through to the keeper.
The succession was otherwise very smooth,
but such a gratuitous statement should raise a question about just who is
running PBL. It’s a bit like a football club – as soon as the board starts
expressing confidence in the coach you know there’s a problem. But in this case
it’s worse – the coach controls the club.
Of course senior management and the board
support the executive chairman – otherwise they are out of a job. It’s not hard
to form the opinion that the subtleties of Alexander’s statement actually imply
a dependency by James Packer on his ambitious CEO – the man who made an art
form out of gaining Kerry Packer’s confidence.
One is left to wonder whether that
statement was put out with James Packer’s knowledge or approval. If Packer
didn’t clear it, he should carpet Alexander for his presumption and make clear
internally just who is in charge.
If the executive chairman did approve its
release, you can wonder if he is made of the right stuff or is set to be
manipulated by Alexander in the years ahead.
This wasn’t a clear “the King is dead, long
live the King”. It smacked of “the King is dead, and the court has the Prince
where it wants him”.
But maybe I’m totally wrong and John
Alexander isn’t nearly that subtle and measured. Maybe.