From a former Broadcast Australia employee: MacBank’s Macquarie Communications Group fund is now below its listing price and sub-$2, not good for the executive option scheme I would imagine.

A short history; Mac Bank purchased NTL Australia, owner of the ABC and SBS TV transmission towers (a Howard privatisation in 1999) when NTL tanked in the dot com crash. NTL Australia was owned by NTL Inc. NTL Inc originally listed on NASDAQ, then NYSE, and went from US$1 to US$125 and back to… er, zero, and then Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001. Mac bank bought NTL Australia in a garage sale from the holders of NTL debt who’d seen their debt-to-equity investments crash, but who ended up with 99% of the equity. Mac Bank renamed NTL Australia as Broadcast Australia and made BA the seed asset in it’s new fund MCG. Naturally, Macquarie Bank flipped NTL Australia into it’s MCG fund for the usual fee.

Listed at A$2 in 2003, BA/MCG has been run by a true Mac Bank employee, a Scotsman and former accountant by the name of Graeme Barclay. Barclay is ex Arthur Anderson. AA, you recall, was a company known for the occasional bit of dubious financial risk taking (especially the bit that sent it broke). Post the MCG listing, Barclay and his senior management team received big parcels of shares and banker-level salaries for boosting the MCG share price to high of $7. The one and only acquisition of any size was the transmission towers business of NTL UK, run by Barclay’s mate Tom Bennie.

Is MCG now NTL without the cable franchises? Are the ABC and SBS worried that MCG might need some cash soon and sell their old towers in a similar garage sale?

Senior management at Broadcast Australia are actually Mac Bank employees (so they get the better salary and bonus scheme see), whereas the rest of the workers are BA staff (different salary, no invite to the bankers Xmas party, Melbourne Cup tent etc). BA senior management were all issued two business cards, one with the BA logo, one with the Mac Bank brand; many handed out both, no doubt proud to be seen as Masters of the Universe. Since Kevin Rudd’s comments about overpaid bankers, I wonder how many Broadcast Australia senior exec’s will hand out their Mac Bank cards? (especially to their poor customers at the ABC and SBS).

In a rare move, Federal MP Bob McMullan has personally intervened in the ACT election, writing to Ginninderra residents to ask them to give their first preference to Chris Bourke. Bourke, a dentist and successful small businessman from an indigenous background, is the sort of real-world candidate desperately needed by Labor, which is becoming so in-bred it’s in danger of developing a Hapsburg chin. But because he is factionally non-aligned, he faces an uphill task against hacks like Adina Cirson, whose background consists only of union and ministerial staffing work, but who have the resources of the factions behind them to generate publicity and exploit the resources of government. McMullan is also non-aligned, as is Chief Minister Jon Stanhope.

Thousands of Defence personnel who bank with Australian Defence Credit Union are STILL waiting on a cut in interest rates after the reserve bank cut last week. The official response is “our board is looking at it”. Disgraceful.

So whilst Ford are busy laying off large numbers of staff this week the big wigs were hobnobbing it with big wigs from Nippon Steel at the Sofitel in Melbourne on Wednesday night. Great to see that in these days of economic belt tightening all are pulling their weight.

Prof. Scott Holmes of University of Newcastle is lobbying to have former NSW Treasurer Michael Costa offered a job.

More budget cuts at the ABC? abc.net.au up and down like a bride’s nightie between 7am and 8am this morning.

In response to this tip: “I recently flew Qantas from Sydney to London and then back home from New York. And nothing happened. In fact it was on time and a very non-eventful series of flights. Thought this may be of interest.” I flew from Melbourne to Sydney yesterday and left Melbourne two minutes early. When we got to Sydney an air traffick controller had cleared us to land but left a plane on the runway. The pilot decided not to crash into it and instead went round again. So we were late.

Peter Fray

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