As the media gobbles up the extraordinary Mile High Club story of sacked Qantas hostie Lisa Robertson and Hollywood star Ralph Fiennes, it would be interesting to know what Fairfax Media chairman Ron Walker makes of it all.

Ron’s old hotelier mate George Frew, the second of Pixie Skase’s three husbands, produced a cracking but little-mentioned self-published autobiography in 2003 which included the following amusing revelation from 1972:

Ron seemed to fill his waking hours with “networking” contacts who might help his career develop as a man of power in the community… He whispered to me one day that he was a member of the Mile-high Club, and much more to my surprise he confided that he had even been at one time a manufacturer of condoms.

With so much material to work with, it will be interesting to see how News Ltd responds to the apparent decision by Fairfax to editorially muscle up against its bigger rival.

Another example of this phenomenon was The SMH on Saturday which gloated in a prominent colour piece at the top of page three that it outsells The Daily Telegraph on Saturday and that The Newcastle Herald outsells The Australian in NSW.

What could have triggered Fairfax to go all bolshie? Maybe Ron was peeved that News Ltd appointed his old adversary Bruce Guthrie as the new editor of the Herald Sun. While Guthrie only formally started yesterday, the Herald Sun ran an embarrassing story on 31 January revealing that Victorian taxpayers had spent $200,000 on a ditched documentary about Ron’s efforts organising the Commonwealth Games.

Guthrie was slated for a return to Fairfax in Melbourne about three years ago but the media grapevine at the time suggested it was stopped at board level in a veto led by Ron. Alas, Guthrie was lost to The Australian Magazine and is now going head to head for Rupert against his old paper, The Age, which pursued Ron vigorously when Guthrie was editor in the mid-1990s.

What will Guthrie do to Ron Walker in his home town if the News Ltd machine decide it is open season on Fairfax editors and directors? One complicating factor is that Walker claimed at last year’s Fairfax AGM that Dame Elisabeth Murdoch is a personal mentor and Ron himself helped train up Rupert’s brother-in-law and Federal Liberal Party Treasurer, John Calvert-Jones, in the artistry of political bagmanship.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW