The Veuve Clicquot Award
is arguably the most prestigious prize that any Australian
businesswoman can win. Launched in 1972 to honour Barbe Nicole Clicquot
Ponsardin, the woman who in 1805 inherited her husband’s vineyards and
created an internationally famous brand, it now runs in 16 countries,
including Australia.

As far as judging panels go, you don’t get many with this range of heavy hitters:

The Hon Justice Annabelle Bennett, AO Justice of the
Federal Court of Australia
Janet Holmes a Court AO Chairman,
Heytesbury Holdings Pty Ltd
Deeta Colvin PBL Director of
Corporate Relations and Events
Marilynne Paspaley Executive
Director of Paspaley Pearls Pty Ltd
Dawn Robertson Managing
Director of Myer Stores Ltd
David Murray Chairman of the
Future Fund
Robert Remnant Managing Director of Moet
Hennessy Australia Pty Ltd, for and on behalf of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin

However, it is not a particularly good look that this year’s winner, Sarina Bratton, has a direct connection to one of the judges. Bratton is thefounder and managing director of Orion
Expedition Cruises, a five-star boutique “soft adventure” cruising experience,
showcasing pristine wilderness destinations.

Perhaps it should have been disclosed that Marilynne Paspaley owns 30%
of the business. Judging panel chairman Robert Remnant this morning said
Paspaley had
withdrawn from the
final deliberations – and Serina Bratton had been the unanimous choice
of the other six judges – but the press release listed Paspaley as one
the judges and made no reference to the conflict of interest, or her
decision to stand aside from the final deliberations.

These things are all about perceptions and perhaps the other judges
should have ensured the situation was made clear. There is no way
Justice Annabelle
Bennett would continue to sit on a case involving a company in which
her family had a 30% shareholding. Even if we accept that Paspaley did
the right thing and stood aside there’s an issue of disclosure here –
we should’ve been told.