Sir Rod Eddington, the former CEO of Cathay Pacific, Ansett and British Airways, is one of Australia’s most respected business leaders. Indeed, he’s on this list of the Top 50 Australians in global business and was even recently speculated to be a future Governor-General.

However, take a moment to consider Sir Rod’s current workload:

  • Chairman of JP Morgan Australia as it tries to recover $2 billion from Centro
  • Senior independent director of governance-challenged News Corp
  • Director of Rio Tinto as it fends off BHP-Billiton’s takeover advances
  • Director of Allco Finance Group as its key executives battle to stay solvent
  • Chairman of Kevin Rudd’s Business Advisory Panel as the testy relationship finds its course
  • Preparing a report for John Brumby by the end of March as to whether Melbourne needs a huge tunnel linking the Eastern Freeway with the Tullamarine Freeway
  • Chairman of Melbourne Major Events
  • Director, John Swire & Sons

Given all this, it is surprising that Sir Rod didn’t last week follow the lead of another Labor-connected business leader, Barbara Ward, and bail from the Allco Finance Group board.

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Barbara was keen to put some distance between herself and executive chairman David Coe at last December’s Allco EGM when she explained her relationship as follows: “I did some business with David when I was at TNT/Ansett. I don’t think I spoke to him for 10 years until I was approached by a headhunter to sit on the Allco board.”

Ward’s resignation confirms her independence and good on her for bailing. Sir Rod’s decision to stay might reflect his friendship with Coe, which is hardly healthy for an independent director.

While Aussie Bob Mansfield has plenty of time on his hands since losing gigs at Telstra and Westfield, Sir Rod would have been better served by pulling out the old “too many commitments” argument to depart the smouldering Allco ship as well.

The complex Allco set-up is completely inappropriate for a public company and David Coe’s frenetic deal-making through a web of associated companies really should be conducted in private.

Having already poured about $90 million into supporting Allco Finance Group and Record Realty last week, maybe Allco founder John Kinghorn should spend some more of that $650 million he pocketed from the RAMS float and take the business private.

Kinghorn is already well ahead on this play, especially after Allco today revealed there would be no more margin calls due to this stand still agreement with the bankers to the Allco executive team.

No wonder Coe was in the broadsheets yesterday stressing that he hadn’t spoken to Kinghorn about the bail out. To have done so would have constituted insider trading.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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