Now that Kerry Packer has moved on, surely it is time that one of the
great corporate mysteries of recent years be solved. Sue Palmer, the
American wife of former BRW Rich Lister Ross Palmer, has been in touch with
Crikey about the saga that was ANI. She explains her story as follows:

I appeared on Four
Corners
in 1997 in a story that caused
Kerry Packer to sue the ABC. My
husband and I sold our public company, Palmer Tube Mills,
to ANI in 1994. It was a media war for a long time, with the board of ANI
winning on pushing Ross off the board. Unlike some directors, he was asking all the right
questions.

My main point on the program was that Australians
lived in such fear of Kerry Packer that he could do just about anything he
wanted. He paid for it. He wielded his power for it. And, he
got it.

Now that he has passed away, there are people coming out and
saying what is really their opinion about KP. That, in itself, proves my point
on the program that people did not want to “mess” with KP.

At this time, there is still an independent inquiry done in
the late
1990s that would have either confirmed or denied any corporate
misdemeanours that went on with KP, his CPH, and ANI. This also includes
his then CEO Al “chainsaw” Dunlap, who is now a disgraced business figure in the US.

James
Packer and Al Dunlap (not as directors) were at the
1991 ANI board meeting which voted for ANI to purchase one of KP’s very
ill companies that was losing money and which subsequently contributed
to a $400 million disaster for ANI. After ANI bought the bleeding
company, Kerry Packer sold all his interests in ANI two weeks later,
crystallising a profit of about $200 million.

The inquiry was done on a public company. However, due to
Packer’s unbelievable power, that document was only given to ANI and
the corporate regulator. ASIC, then headed by Alan Cameron, didn’t even
have the nerve to release
the document.

Till this day, it sits under wraps. It was done by Bob Ellicott, QC,
and is known as the Ellicott Report. My husband and family
suffered greatly due to this deal and our
shareholders in our company suffered losses also. It was a great
burden. I think it’s time the document was made public to clear the air
once and for all.

This story actually has an interesting place in the history of
Crikey. I remember watching Sally Neighbour’s Four Corners report and thinking how
outrageous it was that Packer had got away with seemingly using his board numbers to dump a huge mess on ANI, as is explained here in an analysis by a Sydney University academic.

It was at this point that I called Sally and offered to do a
whistleblower job on Jeff Kennett as I was still outraged that Jeff’s press secretary, Steve Murphy, had told me that Packer had
given Kennett a secret $400,000 defamation settlement which had funded
a $300,000 renovation of his family home.

The Packer family had made about $100 million out of Victoria’s
monopoly casino licence at this point through its direct investments in
both Crown Ltd and Hudson Conway, partly thanks to a series of generous
regulatory favours agreed to by
the Kennett Government.

Sally Neighbour’s Four Corners story, Kennett’s Culture, ran in
September 1997 and when Jeff survived the subsequent public debate, I
scurried off to Sydney convinced that a web campaign and running in his
seat of Burwood at the 1999 state election was the only remaining
option. And the rest, as they say, is history, but it might not have happened without Sue Palmer and the saga of ANI.

Peter Fray

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