If it hadn’t been for Stephen Mayne asking a number of questions of James Packer during yesterday’s PBL board meeting, the Australian media wouldn’t have learned of the low capital gains tax bill on the recent sale of 50% of its media assets into PBL Media, which made page one of The Australian, nor would they have learned about Eddie McGuire’s contract, his and PBL’s “minimal interest” in Fairfax, or his views on the Chris Masters book on Alan Jones and his friendship with the radio star.
In short, Stephen Mayne, acting as a shareholder, found a way to question Australia’s richest man and the head of the country’s biggest media and gaming empire across a broad range of subjects, extracting a lot of newsworthy information.
There were no questions or comments by any other journalists because James continued his father’s tradition of not doing any interviews before or after the AGM and not allowing the cameras or recording devices into the meeting. Maybe it’s time other journalists tried the shareholder route, like The AFR’s John Durie did to AMP in 2000.
To his credit, James Packer was more forthcoming than his father and more forthcoming than at previous PBL meetings he has chaired when his father was looking on.
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James Packer doesn’t like Crikey all that much, it is still banned at his empire, but Crikey and Stephen Mayne did more than all the rest of the Australian media yesterday to draw out Mr Packer on a range of important issues.
All in response to questions from a shareholder who knew he was asking them on behalf of other journalists, shareholders, analysts and fund managers in the room.