The papers are full of it this morning but, so far, Qantas has not bothered to formally advise the ASX that Margaret Jackson is quitting as chairman.
And in the final insult for Australia’s best connected professional director, Qantas shares have only declined 1c to $5.24 in a weaker market. All departing chairs and CEOs love to see a share price plunge on their departure, thereby confirming how invaluable they were to the business.
Whilst Jacko has done a good job as Qantas chairman for most of the past seven years, she made the fatal mistake of forgetting that her ultimate employer was the shareholders.
It’s all very well to get cosy with the government, the directors’ club and the consortium trying to buy Qantas, but shareholders should always remain number one. Jacko lost site of this over the past few months when the owners of Qantas were denied vital information and passionately advised to sell out too cheaply.
Looking back on Jacko’s career, it’s clear that her original sponsor was the Hawke Government, which put her on the Telecom board in 1983 when she was just 30. Other federal Labor gigs included the International Wool Secretariat, the Australian Science and Technology Council, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Remuneration Tribunal and then the big one from Paul Keating in 1992 – Qantas.
She networked ferociously as chair of the Institute of Chartered Accountant and her famous uncle Alan Jackson, undoubtedly the most revered Australian CEO in the 1980s for his work building BTR, helped enormously.
It was John Gough who sponsored Jacko into the director’s club. I was at the Pacific Dunlop AGM in 1992 when he unveiled her as the then mighty conglomerate’s first female director. Gough was also the chairman of ANZ when she landed that gig in 1993 and he was the “senior independent director” at BHP when that spot came along in 1994. Jacko won’t become the next chair of ANZ because directors, with the exception of current chair Charles Goode, must retire after 15 years.
It was the Kennett Government which gave Jacko her first major chair at the $5 billion Transport Accident Commission in 1993 and she only gave this up shortly after the Qantas chair came along in 2000.
The race is now on to land one of the most prestigious gigs in the country and take control of the member’s list of the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.
The AFR’s Chanticleer is railing against former CEO James Strong, but he took a five year break and shouldn’t be discounted. Future Fund chairman David Murray is too close to the Howard Government so if John Schubert doesn’t want to abandon his path to the BHP chair, maybe outgoing Westpac CEO David Morgan is the man for the job.
Relations with Canberra are vital for Qantas and Morgan is married to former Labor environment and sports minister Ros Kelly, so the door opening to a Rudd Government would presumably be pretty straightforward.