The December issue of The AFR magazine has sparked plenty of debate by naming a so-called “Dream Team” board. BHP-Billiton chairman Don Argus is pictured on the cover as our best chairman and then nine other directors are listed. Only two of them make my top 10 directors so let’s start by looking at what Andrew Cornell came up with:

Don Argus: Hard to overlook the $4 billion NAB dropped on Homeside, the $20 billion-plus gift to Billiton in the BHP merger and those millions of lost pallets at Brambles. Apart from all that, not a bad performer but doesn’t make the top 10, let alone as chairman.

Michael Chaney: Former Wesfarmers CEO, turned NAB and Woodside chairman – no arguments there but not quite ready to lead the whole show.

Chris Corrigan: Former Patrick CEO turned PBL director – can’t buy this one because he’s only been on the PBL board for a year and everything before that was in an executive role.

Patricia Cross: Has recovered from the nasty experience on the AMP board to do well at NAB, Wesfarmers and Qantas but not enough to make the overall top 10. The AFR‘s rating has made me lift her from 14 to five on my top female directors list.

Stephen Johns: Long-serving Westfield finance director never really got out of the Lowy family shadows and his gigs on Brambles and as chairman of Spark Infrastructure haven’t set the world on fire.

David Crawford: Pillar of the Melbourne establishment who wouldn’t make my list due to the blunders over his first five years at BHP and his failure to gobble up GPT as Lend Lease chairman.

Graham Kraehe: The AFR lists him as deputy chairman of Brambles when he bailed three years ago. The Rosemount takeover blotted his copybook as Southcorp CEO and the forex losses at NAB also count against him. Done well as Bluescope Steel chairman but not in the first 11.

Jillian Broadbent: Stellar 22-year career at BT and then successful board posts with Woodside, Coca Cola and SBS but it’s hard to judge the performance when a company is controlled by a multi-national so there are better options.

Robert Savage: Former IBM Australia CEO and now chairman of Perpetual and David Jones and Fairfax Media director. Yep, he cuts the mustard.

Don Mercer: Has done well as Orica chairman but no-one who was fired as a CEO like Don was from ANZ in 1996, can make the Dream Team board.


John Schubert, chairman: No management blemishes from his time running Esso Australia and Pioneer International, chaired Worley Parsons as it became a powerhouse and has steered the Commonwealth Bank to number one whilst also helping turn around BHP-Billiton since joining the board in 2000. His stint as President of the Business Council cements his credentials for chairman.

David Gonski, deputy chairman: Doesn’t understand conflict of interest but one of the smartest and hardest working guys around who has sat on big boards for more than 20 years, chairing Coca-Cola Amatil, various arts bodies and the ASX from next year. Largely avoided blunders with the exception of Westfield Capital Corporation 20 years ago but Frank Lowy forgave him for those Channel Ten losses.

Michael Chaney: Has still only chaired three AGMs so not enough runs on the board to chair my Dream Team but a stellar record all the same.

Catherine Livingstone: Australia’s stand-out female CEO for what she achieved at Cochlear and now doing a power of work as chairman of Macquarie Bank’s audit committee whilst also fighting the fires on the Telstra board. Chaired the CSIRO with distinction from 2001-06.

John Cloney: Done a stellar job as chairman of QBE Insurance since 1998 and also wracked up plenty of credits whilst on the Boral and Patrick boards. Quit Brambles in 2001 shortly before all the trouble hit and was one of the Optus directors who extracted a great price out of Singtel.

John Morschell: Deserves huge credit for the growth and ultimate $18 billion sale of Rinker since driving demerger with CSR and taking the chair in 2003. Other successful board posts over the years have included Leighton, Rio Tinto, Westpac, Optus, ANZ and Singtel.

David Clarke: You just can’t overlook the co-founder of Macquarie Bank, especially now that he is non-executive chairman. Still also chairs booming property company Goodman Group and the struggling McGuigan Simeon Wines and had an earlier stint as chairman of Goodman Fielder.

James Strong: Did a great job running Qantas and then for the past five years has handled the chair at Woolworths and IAG with great aplomb.

Ian Macfarlane: Might seem a strange choice but every good board needs someone with a government background and he has racked up some experience on the ANZ, Woolworths and Leighton boards after an unblemished 10 years as executive chairman of the Reserve Bank.

Today’s Mayne Report video explores the extraordinary drugs filled shareholder showbag distributed by Symbion Health after last Friday’s AGM.