Jun 30, 2014

Who wrecked Fairfax? A cheat sheet to Ben Hills’ new book

Stop The Presses is, at heart, a story of Fairfax's board over several decades, and how it got it so wrong. Full of the corporate intrigue and no-holds-barred sledging, here's Crikey's guide to the juicy bits.

Myriam Robin — Media Reporter

Myriam Robin

Media Reporter

If there’s one thing to take out of Ben Hills’ new page-turner on what wrecked Fairfax, it’s that there’s plenty of blame to go around. Hills fingers a conga line of incompetent, greedy and vain directors and executives, who each had their part to play in wrecking what Hills, and many others, considers to be one of the true jewels of Australian democracy.

Hills worked at Fairfax for close to 50 years, leaving as a member of staff in 2000 (without a redundancy, he somewhat ruefully revealed to Crikey this morning), but he continues to freelance for the company. He says the public is owed an explanation of what went wrong. “The internet has had a huge impact. But Fairfax has a particular responsibility for having handled it so badly. Since the receivership [in 1987], there have been 40 or 50 directors, and none of them have had any media experience. They were really ideally placed in the late ’90s to hop onto internet bandwagon. They could have bought into SEEK, REA, Carsales — just as Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer did. The were caught flat-footed, beaten, and are paying the price.”

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3 thoughts on “Who wrecked Fairfax? A cheat sheet to Ben Hills’ new book

  1. paddy

    Sounds like a fascinating, if depressing read.
    *Puts on list.

  2. Edward Lithium

    Having read the book, I am left wondering what really happened. It reads as though Fairfax could have had at least one of the three big classified businesses to itself. It reads as if the board was and remains a huge problem. But it really does not explain how the company kept driving downwards, apparently under its own steam. There is something mysterious about the board, as if they were selected by someone who wanted failure. The quotes from Walker and Fairfax are fascinating for their implications.

  3. AR

    What I never understood about the Wocka wank-off was that it was doomed from the start, using a Ming vase as a football, but having destroyed the company ethos and lost over a $1B, he returned to the Xtn nut compound in the Benighted States whence he’d come (not so much a “lion on the fold” as an ingenue in a whorehouse) without a backward glance, indeed it was as if that had been his intention all along, “camel – needle” kinda thing, guilt & gormlessness affecting so many people who did not share his delusions – the non Mudorc reading electorate.
    Does he even exist on any know reality level these days?

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