The Australian‘s business section is mourning the loss of another high-profile hack after Matthew Stevens jumped ship to bitter national rival The Australian Financial Review.

Stevens’ decision to shift to the other side of the Yarra brings to four the number of high-profile staff by new Fin editor Michael Stutchbury’s poaching raid, who was himself lured away from News by Australian turncoat Brett Clegg.

The gravy train back to Fairfax in recent months has included James Chessell, Tracy Lee and Nabila Ahmed, in addition to Stutchbury and, originally, Clegg.

However, News moles say Stevens, married to BHP Billiton media relations vice president Sam Evans, is the most significant transferee given that for 2o years he was feted inside the media giant as editor material. His column is required reading among boardroom hard heads.

Ironically, it was Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell who set the merry-go-round in action when he secured the services of Clegg (then the Fin’s deputy editor), his wife Annabel Hepworth and Damon Kitney from the AFR in May 2010. Chessell and Lee had shifted in late 2009. Now it’s payback time.

“Stutch’s basically just recreating his old Oz fiefdom at Fairfax,” one former Fairfax insider told Crikey this afternoon. “The Stutchbury hire has sparked a giant talent grab.”

Since taking the reins of The Fin, the silver-haired crusader has taken a vicious line on industrial relations reform as foreshadowed by Crikey when his defection was announced. Nary a day goes by without Stutchbury splashing on the front page with a dig at unions or the Gillard government for stifling apparently overdue industrial relations reforms.

Now it seems the editor-in-chief could expand his domain even further, telling Lateline Business  Ticky Fullerton on Wednesday night that a buyout of Alan Kohler’s Business Spectator would be “a very interesting thing to think about”.

And yesterday, his bullish boss Clegg moved to slash the price of the Fin‘s print subscriptions by 30%, from $1140 to $780 a year. That price will now include access to the previously-barred A web-only subscription would cost $680, Clegg said.