Congratulations to Brisbane businessman Colin Ryan who last week was appointed chairman of Brisbane Airport Corporation. It’s quite a step up from the days when he chaired one of the more colourful ASX-listed companies, Tomato Technologies – a company founded on a share trading “black box” software program which was often flogged in the sort of manner ASIC warns punters about.

There’s no mention of the old Tomato Technologies days in Ryan’s CV on the Airport site, but brawling with Macquarie Bank and such will hardly be any more interesting that the relationship he must have had with Tomato founder Jamie Pickering. Pickering is the son of former cartoonist Larry from whom he learned his early lessons in marketing “black box” software – Larry did a highly questionable line in programs that promised to pick winners on the race course. The programs were very profitable for Pickering, but not for the mugs.

Larry fell foul of the authorities when he tried to expand into software that claimed to pick winners on the stock market because the company fronting it didn’t have the appropriate licence.

Perhaps Tomato Technologies learned from that experience too, as it’s always been careful to have whatever paperwork is required.

Colin Ryan resigned from Tomato Technologies in November 2003 and the company has continued to have quite a bit of turnover on the board since then. Now, surprise surprise, Jamie Pickering is moving on as well, selling out his 45 million shares or so as Tomato Technologies undergoes substantial changes in the process of expanding what it does in various financial planning and investment activities.

The company is buying for a mixture of cash and shares a clutch of outfits which will give it access to self-managed superannuation, residential real estate syndicates, accounting and financial advisory services.

A key part of all that is a Brisbane mob called Asian Pacific Advisory Group whose principal and managing partner is Ric Hayter. Ric’s profile mentions that, among other things, in 1996 he became managing director of Harts Accountants until resigning in December 2000 to establish Asian Pacific.

Harts listed on the ASX in May, 2000, but didn’t last long – in September 2001 ASIC called in the liquidators. The Asian Pacific CV doesn’t include that bit.

The most recent mention of Harts I can find on the ASIC site is from last September, detailing that Richard Melvyn Hayter had been committed to stand trial, on a date to be fixed, on one count of being knowingly concerned in the company’s failure to keep the market informed of an unexpected loss of $9.7 million in 2001.

Peter Fray

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