There’s something really strange about the anti-publicity mentality of those who control the various Channels Nine across the country.
First, the Packer family thought nothing of slapping a three-year ban on Crikey. Then the new private equity owner of the network, CVC’s Adrian MacKenzie, initially thought he could get away with not having his photo taken. Even worse, today the owner of Channel Nine in Perth banned three newspaper journalists from attending a shareholders’ meeting.
As the proud owner of 38 shares in Sunraysia Television, I was allowed into the meeting which approved the sale of Channel Nine Perth to Bruce Gordon’s WIN Corporation for $163 million on a show of hands. The proxies were overwhelming.
The board and various advisers just sat around a table as if they were having a private meeting, whilst the company’s smallest shareholder and the lawyer representing WIN had to sit on the side and stare at the back of executive chairman and controlling shareholder Eva Presser.
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I’ve never come across a more publicity-phobic person at a public company meeting than Eva, who was accompanied by her punk-rocker son with his coloured dreadlocks and face full of piercings.
Fellow director Olaf O’Duill, the former managing director of Tricontinental who came to the Sunraysia board as part of a debt-workout in the early 1990s, tried to claim some answers to questions would be off the record.
I held my ground on this point, but then paranoid Eva tried to claim that every single question was not relevant to the resolutions being voted on. So, we’re voting to sell the business to Bruce Gordon, but she won’t explain why the 44% shareholder was banned from the board for the past decade?
We voted not to sell the business to PBL Media for $136 million and Eva even tried to avoid discussing the $1.36 million break-fee that will now have to be paid.
I tried to explore why there was such animosity towards WIN and whether a straightforward auction from the start could have avoided the PBL Media break-fee.
Olaf tried to claim there had never been any animosity and Eva then declared her endorsement of the deal proved this point, but then it was pointed out that the whole thing was driven by price, not relationship.
Eva Presser is clearly completed unsuited in her role as a mini-media mogul through a public company. Losses of about $7 million over the past two years despite the booming WA economy suggests poor management, so at least now she can happily take her $70 million in cash and stay in the private arena, where she clearly belongs.