Corporate reputations take a lifetime to build, but as Steve Vizard, David Coe and now Trevor Cyril Rowe AM can attest, far less time to crumble.
Last week, in a brief statement, it was revealed that Rowe, former Chairman of maligned toll-road developer, BrisConnections, will be resigning from the board of the Queensland Investment Corporation, effective from September. The QIC is the Queensland-state government owned institutional investment manager, managing approximately $65 billion of funds for local and overseas investors. (Controversially, QIC is also a major investor in BrisConnections, albeit, prior to Rowe’s appointment).
Yesterday, Rowe announced that he will resign from the board of the Australian Securities Exchange at the company’s 2010 AGM (Rowe had been re-elected to the board of the ASX last October). Rowe contended that he had told the ASX board of his decision to resign ten weeks ago.
It would appear likely that ASX’s savvy chairman, David Gonski, played a role in the announcement of Rowe’s resignation, with the ASX-chairman telling media yesterday that Rowe’s departure will give “the [ASX[ board the opportunity to continue the renewal process and propose to shareholders a successor to Trevor at next year’s AGM.” Given the ASX’s role as a regulator of publicly listed companies, it would have been untenable for Rowe to continue in his role as a director given the revelations of the past week.
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Rowe is remaining on the boards of the publicly-listed United Group and BrisConnections, Rothschild Australia and as a guardian of the Future Fund.
Rowe’s once stellar reputation appears to be in tatters after it was revealed last week that Enhance Corporate, a political lobby group founded (and chaired) by Rowe, was forced to terminate an employee who received a secret $1 million success fee for switching fund managers.
It was also revealed last week that BrisConnections, another the company chaired by Rowe, had paid former Queensland Treasurer, Terry Mackenroth (and fellow Labor politician, Con Sciacca) a $500,000 success fee for securing the Brisbane Airport Tollroad project. Last week, Mackenroth was referred to the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission in relation to allegations arising from his lobbying activities (in relation to a different project).
In another unfortunate twist, Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission found that a gentleman by the name of Scott Flavell, had used his public service positions to better position himself as a private provider, forcing him to step down from his role as CEO of Careers Australia Group. The Chairman of Careers Australia Group is none other than Trevor Cyril Rowe.
Rowe’s star rapidly fell from grace during the Brisconnections affair, in which the company saw its partly paid units fall to nearly zero and was involved in a corporate circus with 27 year-old greenmailer Nick Bolton, and a cast of characters including former advisor to Alan Bond, Jim Bynres. During the affair, Rowe appeared to make contradictory comments regarding alleged financial approaches made to Bolton by BrisConnections and its representatives.
Rowe was also the Chairman of ASX-listed contractor, United Group, which suffered a major backlash last year when 37% of shareholders rejected the company’s remuneration report. Shareholders were intcensed at the company’s decision to increase CEO, Richard Leupen’s fixed remuneration from $1.5 million to $2.3 million and boost his short-term bonus from $875,320 to $1,448,000 — despite United’s share-price slumping by 25% during the year. Some commentators alleged that the decision to increase Leupen’s remuneration was not due to improved performance, but rather, to compensate the CEO for loss of value of shares which were subject to margin loans. Rowe is the Chairman of the United Group Remuneration Committee.
While Rowe may very well have had no involvement in the allegations leveled against the companies in which he has been associated, his position as a director of the ASX was untenable and he had little choice but to resign. Rowe’s role as a guardian of the Future Fund also remains in grave doubt, like the ASX position requiring the utmost level of trust and integrity.