Many publishers, broadcasters and journalists know that feeling after a
strong but contentious story first hits the public domain. What will be
the reaction? Is it right? Will they sue? The best response is usually
silence – because then you know it’s right. However, too much silence isn’t a good thing because it also sometimes
means that the rest of the media don’t follow up your cracking yarn.
And so it was with this package of sealed section items in December 2004 which began with this tip from a skier:

Is it simply a coincidence that Qantas have re-introduced
flights, twice weekly I believe, to Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan? A couple of
Australian chaps, Melbourne Minter Ellison lawyer, Roger Donazzan and Australian
Alpine Enterprises managing director Colin Hackworth have purchased a defunct
ski-resort (Niseko Hanazono) and are promoting it here in Australia.

Fortunately for them Qantas have started flights out of Cairns using
Australian Airlines. Roger Donazzan is, of course, married to Margaret Jackson,
Chairman of Qantas. Having the flights recommence certainly won’t hurt the
chances of the lads making a buck.

This is a cracking story but it never went anywhere. Well, plenty has
happened over the past 18 months as this Japanese spy explains:

Back in late 2004 Crikey ran a couple of pieces about the
adventures of Roger Donazzan (husband of Margaret Jackson) and Colin
Hackworth, who were being feted at the time for buying the defunct
Hanazono ski resort in Niseko, in the northern Japanese island of
Hokkaido and announcing plans to build an 8,000 bed mega-million dollar “world class human-scale ski-in, ski-out village”.

Both the intrepid would-be developers have been swanning around the
Niseko area in a very nice Range Rover since having purchased and, in
Hackworth’s case at least, substantially renovated ski villas in the
neighbouring town of Hirafu (significantly NOT in the Hanazono area
they want investors to commit to), but every time a key development
deadline has arrived, they have ducked and weaved and announced
“unavoidable delays to make absolutely sure all the groundwork is in
place”.

Throughout the winter season just ended, Donazzan and Hackworth
continued to hold “investment seminars” for visiting skiers from
Australia and elsewhere – odd affairs held in a retail shop their
company operates in the main street of Hirafu at which the bemused
onlookers – who seemed to gather more for the free wine than anything
else – were treated to the spectacle of the silver-tongued marketing
wizard Hackworth leaping on to a chair and attempting to enthuse all
present with a stirring “Hanazono, Hanazono Oi Oi Oi”.

Perhaps it is no surprise to have heard in the past week from a source
within Tokyu Corporation, the company that sold Hanazono to the lads
for a reported $2.5 million, that the game is now up. Colin Hackworth
has told senior people around town that they know they will not raise
the necessary money proceed to build even one single part of the
grandiose scheme, and that the project is now on the market for around
$9 million.

One can’t help thinking that it will indeed need to go for $9 million
so that the original investors (whoever they were) might see some
return on their “investment”. Curious observers have long been
wondering who was footing the bill for the apparent extravagance. The
same observers, and many others in Niseko, are now wondering whether
the demise of “Mr Jackson’s” dreams might have any impact on Australian
Airlines’ direct flights to Hokkaido, which were cranked up just about
the time the original Hanazono purchase was announced.

Given the discussion we’re having about perks at Qantas, it would also
be interesting to know who paid for what when Donazzan and his
development team travelled to and from Australia. If Australian
Airlines isn’t yet making a profit on the route, Margaret Jackson
should be feeling a tad uncomfortable because this isn’t a good look.

Peter Fray

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