James Packer selling Foxtel? No comment. Type in the search term “Packer sell Foxtel” today and you’ll get 73,100 stories on Google to fit the bill. We still haven’t yet got round to reading them all, but the first four pages of the list link back to a piece last night by News Limited business columnist Terry McCrann, claiming that the media and gambling tycoon has decided to sell out of the media and spend his money on buying more casinos. Poor Kerry would be turning in his grave. Again.
Specifically, Packer is planning to raise $1 billion in free cash from the sale of his 25% share of Foxtel to fund a bid for Echo Entertainment, says McCrann, who claims Packer has appointed his old mate Matthew Grounds at investment bank UBS to handle the auction. If the bid were successful, Packer would win control of four more Australian casinos: The Star in Sydney, Jupiters on the Gold Coast and in Townsville, and the Treasury in Brisbane.
But sadly, we have to admit this is Macca’s “exclusive”, not ours. When The Power Index tried to confirm the story this morning we were met with a broadside of “no comments”. We rang Matthew Grounds’ at UBS (“we have no comment”), Adam Suckling at News Ltd (“we never comment”) and tried rather feebly to talk to Packer at Consolidated Media Holdings (“we’ll get someone to ring you back”).
We also tried Kerry Stokes at Channel Seven, who would surely be a buyer, Richard Freudenstein at Foxtel, who should know if one of his shareholders is selling, and the good folks at ACMA and Senator Conroy’s office in Canberra, who might know whether the pay-TV sale would get past the regulators. We even put in a call to McCrann (“he is not in the office today”). But by the time we went to press we’d got … zilch. — Paul Barry (read the full story here)
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Xenophon under attack from Scientologists. Independent senator Nick Xenophon got a nasty surprise during his visit to Malaysia, after a speech he made castigating Scientology was apparently altered to refer to Islam.
Headlined “Anti-Islam Australian lawmaker comes under fire”, the piece appeared in the government-linked New Straits Times and quotes from a speech Xenophon delivered in 2009, according to Fairfax papers today.
In the speech to parliament, Xenophon referred to Scientology as “a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs”. In the News Straits Times Xenophon’s comments were changed to make him sound like he was attacking Islam. The Senator is said to be considering his legal options.
Restaurant penalty rates on the table. Earlier this year The Power Index revealed George Calombaris’ problems with penalty rates in the food business. Now, restaurant owners and caterers have jumped on board the MasterChef‘s bandwagon to try and cut weekend bonuses.
Restaurant and Catering Australia, a representative of 7200 hospitality businesses, has made a submission for the award to be changed to make it harder for workers to get time-and-a-half and time-and-a-quarter. R&C chief executive John Hart said penalty rates were shutting down restaurants, according to a report in The Age.
Union boss Louise Tarrant, national secretary of United Voice (and a contender for our upcoming Union power list), said penalty rates were well enshrined and should remain. “Reliable and professional staff can’t come at minimum wages in a sector that has unsociable hours and physically demanding jobs,” she said.