As an exercise in damage control, Dick Pratt’s decision to give a tell-all interview to Cameron Stewart for The Australian Magazine has probably worked well for all concerned.
Stewart got a cracking yarn from a bloke who has become obsessively private and anti-media ever since Ben Hills splashed the tale of his mistress and their love-child on the front of the Fairfax broadsheets back in 2000.
Whilst Pratt is boxed into an unwinnable corner, he did get himself some huge exposure from the Oz on Saturday and successfully muddied the waters as he prepares to confess that he did approve a disgraceful box cartel with Amcor. After all, Stewart dwelt in some detail on his charitable side and even flagged his desire to leave a $1 billion foundation after he moves on – something his children have deferred for a few years.
Stewart negotiated himself a no holds-barred interview, allowing his feature to cover the full terrain of Pratt’s incredible life.
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The confessional quotes from Pratt in The Weekend Australian’s news story were also a lot stronger than those in the Magazine so Stewart managed to bag the double of a great scoop and a great feature.
The court battle between the ACCC and Pratt was originally scheduled to start on 3 October, which would have made a 6 October magazine feature printed 8 days earlier quite a precarious exercise – both legally and journalistically.
You have to wonder if Pratt’s spin team, headed by former BRW journalist Tony Gray, didn’t decide to encourage a two week delay in the court case to finalise a settlement and also see how the PR played out. Rather than cop on-going black-eyes for the next year, Pratt has now said his piece in the media and just needs to get the legalese of his settlement right.
Whilst a $30 million fine is no small beer, it is chicken feed for a bloke supposedly worth more than $5 billion and is much less than Federand NSW taxpayers have donated to his Tumut pulp mill, which went through with nothing of the publicity poor old Gunns is copping.
The big question now is how much financial and reputational damage Pratt suffers. It should be plenty. This is a bloke who cheated on his family, broke the law to rip off customers and even supposedly cheated on his co-conspirator by not sticking by the terms of the cartel thrashed out over two meetings with Amcor CEO Russell Jones at the Bakers Arms hotel in Richmond.
Rather than just apologising to his customers, he should be sending them big cheques. It will be interesting to see how many politicians now draw the line with Pratt and decline to accept his donations or hold their fundraisers at this Kew mansion. Not many, I suspect.
And all this “I’m a great guy” stuff makes you wonder if he took the reins at AFL club Carlton as just another part of a PR rehabilitation exercise.