Laurie Emini, book your spot with Andrew Denton now. The ousted Opes Prime CEO is being pinged with everything under the sun right now, whether it’s visits to the Heffner mansion, underworld clients, fraud or excessive gambling.

As Wayne Carey pointed out last night, when you’re public enemy number one the stories can sometimes develop a life of their own.

A female operations manager at Opes is believed to be the whistleblower and the battle is now on between whether this collapse was caused by the proverbial rotten egg or broader systemic issues.

The regulators and receivers are certainly keen to finger Emini, first talking up the supposed irregularities and then releasing the transcript of Friday’s court hearing to seize his passport.

Like with all complex collapses, the truth is a combination of many elements and the system has a lot to answer for.

At one level, Opes is simply another victim of this global liquidity crunch and sharemarket correction – the big problem being its exposure to raft of small and often speculative listed companies.

It looks like Emini was simply trying to look after his favoured clients and none were bigger than Sydney criminal lawyer Chris Murphy.

The tumbling API and Challenger share prices have wiped out Murphy’s estimated $200 million net worth at the peak last year, plus a chunk of equity that was provided by the other Opes clients.

There is a strong connection between Opes and Stephen Long’s powerful demolition of bank lending practices on 4 Corners last night because it seems the vast majority of Opes customers didn’t realise that one bad client could bring down the whole show.

But that might only be the start of the legal bunfights.

Fairfax’s Michael West had an interesting angle last night when he pointed out that the teetering Babcock & Brown and ANZ Bank supported Tricom transferred the following shares out of Opes last Friday. We’ve added the valuations:

  • 10 million Western Areas: $58.6m
  • 9 million Babcock Capital: $37m
  • 20 million Babcock & Brown Wind: $31m
  • 10 million Everest Babcock: $5m or $25m depending on which vehicle
  • 7 million Arrow Energy: $12.5m
  • 10 million Hedley Leisure and Gaming: $7.9m

Hmmm, that looks like up to $171 million of potential security value that has been stripped from the pool of available funds. Can’t wait for Laurie and the receivers to get in the stand on that one.

Templestowe, the old orcharding district 20kms north east of Melbourne, has produced some colourful characters over the years. New migrant wealth flocked to the area in the 1970s, such that it now has more private tennis courts per house than any other suburb in the world.

Former Coles Myer CEO Brian Quinn fraudulently built his notorious Palace of Versaille mansion in Templestowe and the underworld war began in January 1998 when Alphonse Gangitano was shot dead in his Templestowe home.

You’ll be hearing plenty more about the latest famous Templestowe boy in the coming years.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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