The way AMP CEO Andrew Mohl sold off Stanbroke Pastoral Company might have only cost his shareholders $51 million – small beer compared with the mistakes of his predecessors – but it remains an enduring curiosity in the history of the funds management icon.

And it looks like it’s about to be examined at length in court as Australian Agricultural Company seeks $75 million in damages from AMP.

AACo says it offered $541 million for Stanbroke back in 2003 when AMP rather hastily auctioned off Australia’s biggest pastoral company. AMP gave the thing to the Nebo consortium for $490 million.

The AFR seems to be the only organ to cover yesterday’s directions hearing where AACo and AMP were encouraged to try a little mediation. If that fails, the case is set to go for full trial in two weeks. As the AFR’s Tracy Lee reports:

AMP’s argument for going with the lower bid at the time was because the AACo offer was highly condition and that it was concerned the Queensland cattle company would break up the iconic cattle business.

Never mind that that’s what eventually happened anyway; what’s long intrigued me is that top Stanbroke executives, the people who really knew the Australian cattle business, were cut out of the sale process by the suits in AMP’s Circular Quay headquarters.

There remains a great deal of bitterness in ex-Stanbroke ranks about the way the deal was done. They have been as mystified as AACo. And, with all the benefit of hindsight, it can be claimed that AMP would have done much, much better hanging on to Stanbroke.

Still, it could be more curious – it could be AMP’s apparent lack of burning interest in the ethical performance of some of its financial planners.

Peter Fray

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