The last ever annual meeting of James Packer’s PBL started at 10am inside Melbourne’s Crown Casino this morning.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to ask someone else what happened because your disorganised correspondent turned up an hour late, thinking proceedings only started at 11am with the separate special shareholders meeting to approve the demerger of PBL’s gaming and media businesses.

Thankfully, there was still an opportunity to deliver a eulogy over the Packer family’s sad scaling back of its media investments.

There was something satisfying about standing in Jeff Kennett’s crony capitalism casino telling Australia’s richest man that the gambling business was an awful way to make a crust.

James didn’t look happy but he was even more unimpressed when the elephant in the room was mentioned, Gerald Stone’s book, Who Killed Channel Nine?

James told shareholders people like Stone often have other agendas when writing books, but he then professed not to have read it.

When I attacked the demerger-related $15 million payout to PBL CEO John Alexander, James defended him stoutly.

But how could he do this without having read the book which delivered chapter and verse on how Alexander had destructively meddled with Nine, such that much of the best talent defected to Seven?

People told me about it, said James. What, John Alexander assured him it was all rubbish? Interestingly, the two men didn’t speak to each during the meeting and Alexander is still yet to utter a word at an AGM.

James Packer looked incredulous when I told him Channel Nine could have been sold for double the price to Telstra back in 2000 and we’d also lost stacks of cash from the mismanagement over recent years.

James really doesn’t like journalists or any sort of scrutiny. Security was very tight as everyone had to cloak their bags, although we still managed to record some audio.

Shareholders weren’t even offered free parking, the power packed board all scurried off without saying boo and James refused to give any sort of comment to assembled journalists, including some who had flown down from Sydney for the last rites of PBL.

The demerger was approved with 99.95% in favour and all resolutions at the AGM sailed through with more than 90% approval. With that, James scurried back into the private confines of his awful casino to count the cash lost by thousands of problem gamblers and plot another $2 billion US casino acquisition. It’s all quite sad, really.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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