Chris Corrigan’s reportedly in a spot of bother with ASIC as it widens its inquiry into various aspects of the Patrick takeover. According to Kate Askew in The Smage, ASIC is interested in the Patrick board recommending shareholders accept the Toll bid on a Friday when CEO Corrigan was having a meeting with Macquarie Bank on the following Monday about an alternative bid.

Corrigan denies any wrongdoing. “At all times my activities were in accordance to my recommendations to shareholders,” he says.

I just hope ASIC realises exactly who it’s taking on: Chris Corrigan, the 11th most influential Australian businessman over the past two decades – or just one of the people PBL CEO John Alexander has cultivated during his own rise to power, depending on which way you bother to read The Bulletin’s Top 20 list.

As Crikey’s own attempts at a Top 20 have shown, there’s always room for debate and differences of emphasis and opinion, but it’s pretty funny when no less than three of their top 20 are or were PBL directors – Corrigan, Geoff Dixon and Kerry Packer. It’s even funnier when you scrap the non-public-company types from the list – Alan Bond, Paul Keating, Harry Triguboff, John Symond. Then there are the three inevitable three billionaires, Lowy, Pratt and Murdoch. You could perhaps also discount John Ralph’s inclusion as he gets his for taxation reform rather than business – and someone should tell The Bulletin Ralph was CEO of CRA, not Rio.

That makes PBL three out of 12 for Australia’s most influential business leaders available to be directors – an incredible 25% success rate. Gee, John Alexander must be so good at picking his board.

But perhaps that’s giving too much credit as it is a very sloppy list. Aside from the Ralph mistake, there’s the Kerry Packer citation: “…building Australia’s leading commercial television network – Channel Nine – from scratch”. If you weren’t working for JA, you might think someone’s dad giving him the Channels Nine in Sydney and Melbourne was a little more than “scratch”.

The Don Argus paragraph is worse as it’s a clear case of mistaken identity: “Not many wanted to be a bank CEO after the 1987 stockmarket crash, but Don Argus didn’t mind. He had reined in National Australia Bank’s business loan book so that it had few bad debts.” Looks like they meant to give the award to Nobby Clark – Argus didn’t take over the NAB until 1990.

And how does Leigh Clifford make the list as “mining consolidator” compared with the BHP double act of Paul Anderson and Chip Goodyear? Just the WMC deal swamps Clifford’s takeovers, never mind Billiton. If it’s because Anderson and Goodyear are American citizens, well, so is Murdoch – and News Corp is an American company.

The biggest question though is why JA left Chris Anderson off the list… or could the odd rumour be true that the PBL deputy chairman is exercising some unwelcome command and control over his former SMH underling?

Peter Fray

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