The 2008 financial year was certainly pay day for the top chaps at Consolidated Media Holdings, the media rump of James Packer’s once proud empire. None more so than executive chairman, John Alexander.

In fact it rained millions on the man responsible, along with James Packer, for where the Nine Network and ACP Magazines and other stuff in PBL Media, now finds itself: facing a potentially nasty meeting of banks next Tuesday.

The Cons Media annual report was released this morning and on page 36, in the directors’ remuneration report, the full extent of the golden cascade of dollars upon Mr Alexander can be seen.

More than $19 million, in fact $19.105 million in total, making him possibly one of the highest paid executive in this country this year; possibly second only behind Telstra boss Sol Trujillo among the listed companies.

Mr Alexander’s pay was boosted by that special “termination benefit” $15 million payment received when the PBL empire was split into the gaming business (Crown) and CMH. Mr Alexander’s base salary was cut to $1.5 million a year from $3.2 million when he was CEO of PBL.

The accounts show that he earned a total base salary in 2008 of $3.363 million, compared with $3.207 million in 2007, so he’s doing well for himself, despite the reduced complexity of the business and the lower level of intensity.

CMH, after all, is an investor in media: 25% of Foxtel 25% of PBL media, 50% of Premier Media and 27% of Seek. The most strenuous thing that would have taxed the board during the year was the ham-fisted attempt by Lachlan Murdoch to grab control. But that didn’t even get serious because Mr Murdoch couldn’t raise the money.

Another executive, Martin Dalgleish received a total of $3.74 million in 2008, including a “termination benefit” of $2.48 million on the split late last year at PBL. he earned a total of $1.082 million in 2007.

The annual report says CMH represents an opportunity for shareholders to take exposure to strategic investments in the high-growth subscription television sector in FOXTEL and PMG. It additionally offers exposure to SEEK — one of Australia’s pre-eminent new media brands — and to some of Australia’s best media brands within PBL Media.

It might be that, but its merely a post box and/or bank account for dividend cheques, with some nice accountants to work out the most tax effective way of accounting for that, and working out the equity accounted version.

CMH has suffered, like many other stocks, from the volatility caused by the credit crunch, as well as the downturn in the fortunes of PBL Media. The shares were trading at $2.65 this morning, three cents above their all time low of $2.62. The high late last year was $4.64. James Packer doesn’t take any fees for being deputy chairman of CMH. His 38% though is worth a lot less because of that slump in the price.

At the peak, his 38% was worth more than $1.21 billion, this morning, its down to just over $688 million. CMH is now valued at $1.81 million. Lachlan Murdoch tried to do his takeover around $4.80 a share. Isn’t he a lucky little devil?

Peter Fray

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