The world of the inhouse corporate spindoctor has never been an easy one but spare a thought for Matthew Gibbs, Paul Edwards and John Hurst, who are respectively responsible for media relations at three poisonous acronyms: ASX, ANZ and MFS.
None of the other members of the calamitous crew such as ABC Learning, Allco, Centro or Opes have a full-time in-house spinner and the stiff “no comments” coming out of Lift Capital and Chimaera suggest they haven’t even engaged some hired agency help.
Hurst is a former investment editor of The AFR who tried his luck spinning with Mark Westfield at Cosway before joining the teetering MFS late last year on a $300,000-plus package.
Whilst the Hurst CV will be permanently tarnished, the cash is good while it lasts and the bloke will have an amazing story to tell one day. Coincidentally, Katrina Nicholas produced a fabulous feature about MFS in The AFR yesterday. Someone is talking.
It is not straight debt which is hurting but a ridiculous amount of guarantees, put options and indemnities that former MFS CEO Michael King dished out to the various strands of the sprawling empire.
The Opes Prime insiders have been singing like canaries for The AFR but no one has yet produced the definitive accounts from inside ANZ or ASX about their current PR disasters.
Of all the kickings that ASX has copped, none was more comprehensive than Greg Hoy’s effort on The 7.30 Report last night. Supervisory boss Eric Mayne looked like a man under siege. He’s out of contract and coming under increasing pressure.
This was the fabulous but shocking report by research house Regnan on director dealings which fuelled the fire. ABC chairman Maurice Newman would have been choking on his gin watching the ASX – which he has also chaired since 1994 – get slaughtered by Aunty last night. It won’t be a particularly happy 70th birthday for Maurice on Sunday as he contemplates handing the tarnished ASX chair to David Gonski in October.
And if the inquiries into ASX failings flow as many now expect, it is hard to imagine Maurice sticking around as chairman of Aunty until he’s 74, especially with great mate and fellow grandad John Howard off the scene.
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Another ageing and inappropriate chairman also copped it in the neck from Hoy last night. Ron Walker’s notorious share dealings were finally given the serious mainstream attention Fairfax papers refused to provide.
Combine that with the chaos at The Age, which partly involves Walker, and the odds of John B Fairfax taking over as Fairfax chairman are getting shorter by the day. The Australian has opened a new front against The Age today, suggesting huge business anger over its anti-dredging campaign. However, they missed the key point – Ron Walker’s Portsea set have long been against the project.
Go here for some audio exchanges from yesterday’s Axa AGM.