Business Directors

Dec 17, 2012

The Power Index: why David Gonski rules the boardroom

David Gonski, not surprisingly, rejects the idea of his own power. But when you add up his boardroom roles -- from Coca-Cola to Investec to Infrastructure NSW and the Sydney Theatre Company -- and his relationships in Canberra, there's little doubt he rules corporate Australia.

Andrew Crook — Former <em>Crikey</em> Senior Journalist

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

Twenty minutes into our interview, David Gonski makes a startling admission — he’s not sure why The Power Index even exists: “Frankly, I don’t know what power is … who’s to say if I’m less or more powerful than the man who turns on the lights to let me in the lift each morning?”

It’s a curious approach for Australia’s leading boardroom fixer, a “Mafia don” who surfs the upper echelons of Australian government and business life like some kind of beneficent deity. Renowned for his mad skills since being crowned a Freehills partner at 25, the Cape Town native insists his power — if it’s real — is symptomatic of his head-down attitude.

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4 thoughts on “The Power Index: why David Gonski rules the boardroom

  1. michael crook

    Coca cola eh, so no different to a cigarette salesman. Wonder if he looked at the Butterfly Foundation funded report by Deloitte Access Economics, he would be proud of what coca cola and the junk food corporations have achieved I am sure.

  2. bjb

    “But I think it’s the same as brain surgeons who are asked regularly to do operations because they’re good, because they have the skills,” This is self serving nonsense. I have a _choice_ of which brain surgeon to go to. Because of the directors club, I don’t get a choice. The only names ever put forward are those the existing directors approve of.

    If the club of brain surgeon had the incredibly patchy track record of many of these directors, then the club would change pdq.

    If this groups of directors are so good, how is that, for example BHP has wasted _hundreds_ of millions of dollars in the last few years on abortive takeovers. Nice work I’m sure for the legion of lawyers, bankers and other corporate leeches. (Not withstanding Ross Gittins comment in his column today that most M&A activity is not beneficial for shareholders).

    There needs to a broom put through corporate Australia. A mandatory 50% quota of female directors would be a start. Before anyone says that wouldn’t work, try this next time you’re in a meeting with a bunch of bankers, lawyers or other type A personalities (and the A doesn’t stand for Alpha). Almost certainly they will be all males, maybe a token female or two. Ask the question “Which of you _wouldn’t_ be here if it wasn’t for the fact your’re male”. The notion that only males are qualified is ludicrous. (Oh, and I’m a male BTW).

    We should also follow the German example and have a mandatory number of union or employee representatives on boards.

  3. David Grace

    This is a bit off topic but one of the fascinating features of this listing has been the graphic networks of these directors. I’m assuming there’s software to do this- if so, could you tell me how I could get hold of it? I’m also interested in finding out the interconnections between companies…which is a subsidiary of which…hope you can help me.

  4. tom cook

    Hocus pocus Gonski. If he’s so powerful how come he couldn’t swing the ANZ chair?

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