While no-one else ever said boo, I used to trot along to Fairfax AGMs
and rail against the presence of investment banker David Gonski on the
board because of his longstanding role as a close adviser to Kerry
After all, this was the bloke who actually came up with the slick trust
structure that allowed Kerry Packer to accumulate a stake in Fairfax in
the mid-1990s that appeared to breach cross-media ownership laws.
Gonski’s defence was that he had advised most media companies over the
years and the Packer association was nothing special. Yeah, nothing
special except for the fact that he and Lloyd Williams are the two
executors of the Big Fella’s will, as The Australianreported
in another good John Lehmann scoop on Saturday. Gonski was always
utterly inappropriate for Fairfax and we now have final confirmation as
One curious element in all this is the supposed role of Gonski in
brokering the aborted Fairfax-Sensis merger of 2004, which brought down
then Telstra chairman and former Fairfax CEO Bob Mansfield. Check out
our coverage at the time here.
The Packer forces were furious about the proposal and it was widely
suspected that then Telstra director Sam Chisholm leaked it to Ross
Greenwood who broke the story on Channel Nine and in The Bulletin, thereby scuttling any chances of the deal getting up.
The Packer forces were angry because they see Telstra as a
potential buyer of Channel Nine and realised the powerful competitor
that a combined Fairfax and Sensis would be.
Therefore, if Gonski was such as a Packer mate, why was he said to be
driving force behind the deal on the Fairfax board. Several Packer
watchers at the time said that Gonski found himself on the outer of the
Packer camp after this development, but then he pops up as co-executor
of the will. You can’t get much more inner-circle than that.
Please email [email protected] if you can explain this. Was Gonski
just being a genuinely independent Fairfax director who risked the
wrath of Packer in pushing this proposal. If so, how did he get back
into the good books?
This also raises more questions about the appropriateness of the
current Fairfax chairman, Ron Walker, who was the business partner of
Lloyd Williams for 30 years in Hudson Conway and made a $60 million
personal profit when PBL took over Crown Casino in the late 1990s.
Walker is just as inappropriate as Gonski, but he’s somehow managed to
make it into the Fairfax chair.