PBL chairman James Packer poured cold water on suggestions his new media company is interested in buying parts of the Fairfax newspaper empire, telling shareholders at the company’s AGM this morning that “we are not as fascinated with Fairfax as the Fairfax press thinks.”

Packer told the meeting that he had no shares in Fairfax, had not done any deal with Rupert Murdoch on a break-up of the company, and had “minimal interest” in it.

“We’ve always believed Fairfax’s classifieds are under threat. We have set up employment, cars and we’re about to set up a real estate website,” he said.

Under shareholder questioning at today’s meeting, the PBL chairman also:

  • Revealed that the capital gains tax on the $5.5 billion PBL private equity media deal might be as little as $30 million.
  • Denied that his Nine TV network was reluctant to run stories on gambling addiction, even though PBL is Australia’s biggest gambling company.
  • Batted away as “laughable” and “objectionable” a suggestion from Crikey founder Stephen Mayne that his late father Kerry did a “back room deal” with John Howard for the benefit of free to air television owners, before going on to describe Howard as a “great Prime Minister”.
  • Blew the lid on the myth that Kerry Packer supposedly sold Nine for one billion and bought it back for $250 million, saying the profit was much smaller than is often claimed because most people failed to factor debt into the deal.
  • Gave a ringing endorsement of Eddie McGuire, saying “I think Eddie is doing a great job in very difficult cicumstances. Five years from now we will look back and say Eddie has done a terrific job.”
  • Said the $4 million paid to Mr McGuire was part of his previous employment contract and McGuire hadn’t wanted the terms altered because he saw the Nine CEO role as more risky than appearing on TV.
  • Said he hadn’t read the Chris Masters book on Alan Jones, but it seemed to him from the brouhaha surrounding its publication that it lacks substance. “He’s a dear friend of mine and I’m proud to call him a friend,” he said.
  • Admitted that Nine had mishandled it’s attempt to suppress publication of the affidavit prepared by former employee Mark Llewellyn after it had appeared in Crikey, saying it “should have been handled better.”
  • Revealed the Melco joint venture has been given approval to list on the Hong Kong stock exchange after it was initially denied. 
  • Said there was no chance that PBL would lift its ban on his staff accessing Crikey — claiming that Crikey produced poor journalism and hid behind bankruptcy to avoid accountability.