Gunns director Robin Gray never much
liked Brian Quinn after the founding executive chairman of Coles Myer
threw his considerable influence against the then Tasmanian Liberal
Premier when he refused to liberalise shop-trading hours in the Apple
Aisle almost 20 years ago.

Quinn finished up being jailed for
fraud over renovations to his home but the sweet revenge was completed
yesterday when Ben Gray, the son of Robin, fronted the press as the
managing director of Newbridge Capital, the new owner of Myer.

Tasmanians
should be very proud of their boy who joined a very exclusive club when
he finished in the top 1% of his Harvard MBA intake. This led to a
stellar career at CS First Boston which included working on some of the
huge wealth-creating deals for Graeme Hart, such as the Burns Philp
takeover of Goodman Fielder.

Whilst some analysts are saying
Newbridge paid too much, they have played the politics very nicely.
What should have been a media debate about an iconic Australian brand
falling into foreign hands was instead portrayed as the Myer family
reclaiming their baby.

Sadly, this is not actually particularly
accurate. The Myer family already owned about 5% of Coles Myer, which
after yesterday’s surge to a record high of $10.49, is worth $650
million.

The family could very well have sold their stake in
Coles Myer and bought back the 61 Myer stores on their own, but instead
they’ve only dipped their toe in the water with an equity investment of
“up to 10%” which will set them back “$50-$60 million”. One seat on the
board will give them sod-all power, yet it’s a nice line for the media.

Finally,
it’s worse dwelling on Solomon Lew who must be feeling awfully stupid
for not spending real money buying more shares to save his board seat
during the 2002 proxy fight.

Remember the famous Terry McCrann
column headlined “The rent pays off for the wisdom of Solomon” when he
calculated in February 2003 that by renting rather than buying 45
million shares at $6.30, Solly saved himself $20 million when the
shares hit $5.80.

Hmmm, after yesterday’s record Solly was $189
million out of pocket from that blunder, yet still he has the temerity
to use a spokesman to denigrate the Myer deal, claiming that it should
have been worth $2.6 billion. Solly, you had the money to retain board
control but you wimped it.

McCrann was also chipping Coles Myer
CEO John Fletcher last week because he wanted to sell Myer and Target
in 2002 but was stopped in part by the Solly campaign. Terry, because
it was a demerger proposal, the value would not have been lost to Coles
Myer shareholders. Most demergers have created enormous value for
shareholders and that proposal could very well have done so too.

Peter Fray

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