All this discussion about JB Were heavyweight Bruce Teele and the
so-called secretive cult which he led at the Trinity Presbyterian
church in Camberwell has raised questions about the other secret
network that JB Were was supposedly involved in – the Australia 2000
club of corporates who pledged to support each from the marauding
entrepreneurs of the 1980s.

And with foreign ownership protection likely to be whittled back in the
media, it is time to look at defensive mechanisms from days gone by,
some of which remain in place.

This list clearly goes far beyond anything that Teele could have
organised, it is still interesting nonetheless as Toll, Patrick, AGL
and Alinta slug it out in some of the biggest takeover battles we’ve
seen in years:

AGL: When Ron Brierley swooped in the 1980s, the NSW government
strengthened shareholder limits by introducing a 5% maximum which was
dropped only a couple of years ago.

Amcor: Bought 35% of Mayne Nickless which in turn
owned 15% of Amcor, which also had a smaller cross-shareholding
defence with New Zealand Forest Products. Amcor finally exited the
Mayne register in July 1992.

Ampol: Pioneer Concrete held a 51% stake until selling down in the late 1990s.

BHP: Elders
IXL swooped on an 18% blocking stake to stop Robert Holmes a
Court’s takeover and BHP bought those controversial Elders bonds but
ended up taking a bath on its 35% stake in Elders that was only dumped
in 1996-97.

Big Four Banks: John Spalvins’s Adelaide Steamship built up
stakes in some of the major banks but they were always protected by the
15% maximum prescribed by the Reserve Bank.

CSR: Ron Brierley’s IEL took a strategic stake but then New
Zealand’s Fletcher Challenge stepped in and bought a supportive 10%
stake. Fletcher Challenge also had a cross-shareholding deal with
Jennings which collapsed in the early 1990s.

Coles Myer: Westfield, Solly Lew and the Myer family held around 30% in the late 1980s and all were represented on the board.

Elders IXL: Parked
some convertible bonds in friendly hands which BHP then bought
into and also had a cross-shareholding arrangement with Goodman
Fielder. Also had another cross-shareholding deal with Peter Scanlon’s
AFP which owned 32% of Elders when Elders owned more than 10% of it.
Foster’s sold its 10% Goodman Fielder stake for $189 million in May
1991.

MIM: Was controlled by US-based copper company Asarco Inc in the 1980s until
it sold down to 19% but MIM still held 24% of Asarco into the 1990s in
a cross-shareholding deal.

Santos: when Bondy swooped on
45% in 1978 the South Australian government forced him to sell down to
News Corp and TNT by introducing a 15% shareholder limit that remains
in place to this day.

TNT-News Corp: Held small but friendly shareholdings in each other during the 1980s.

Westfield Holdings: Lowy family had close to 50% until a selldown in 1998 but Lend Lease was prowling with 9.7% until the early 1990s.

Woodside Petroleum: BHP and Shell each owned 40% until BHP stupidly sold out for a pittance in the early 1990s.

Drop us a line to [email protected] if we’ve missed any big ones.

Peter Fray

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