Anyone looking for a “Get News Corp” book from former CEO Kim Williams will be quite disappointed. In the preface to his new book, Rules of Engagement, he says that although he took extensive notes during his time at News, including the nature of his sacking late last year, he would not be writing about it at this time. He may, of course, be saving it up for the future, or there may be a confidentiality clause. At this morning’s book launch, he said that this account could be released in 10 years, when he is “free of the things that permeate public life” — a “surfeit of emotion and deficit of facts”.
The other no-go area in the book is the Whitlams — Kim is married to Catherine Dovey, daughter of Gough and Margaret, and he says that they deserve their privacy. Many of the family turned up to the book launch, including Catherine, Justice Tony Whitlam and former NRMA boss Nick Whitlam. Other notable attendees were former communications minister Helen Coonan, Don Anderson and Angela Bowne SC, Catherine Brenner, Maxine McKew (whose book on education, Class Act, was launched yesterday) Sam Mostyn, Tony Shepherd, Paul and Sandra Saltieri, Geoffrey Atherden and Paul Zahra.
He said that the book was not an “autobiography” but a “lifescape” and that he was “indulgent to the seriously preposterous hope it makes for a jolly good read”. The chapter topics range from his relationship with his parents, particularly his mother, to sport, education and his “constant companion; reading”. He also writes about friendship and provides copious lists of his favourite music, films, television series and so on, even including a whole chapter on wine appreciation with a list of his favourite varieties. If you have a young, bookish, budding aesthete who needs to hone his or her vinous palate, this could be the perfect gift.
Recently retired AFL chief Andrew Demetriou, who launched the book, said Rules of Engagement was about “family, heritage, creativity, business, government and media” and also contains a “heartfelt cry for leadership”.
Williams is a “fascinating, intriguing achiever”, he said, who has a heartfelt love for family, creativity and music. All men and women of vision constantly surprise their friends, he said, adding that Kim had rung him late last year to tell him that he was at the Dapto Dogs greyhound racing event.
“Can anyone imagine Kim Williams at the dogs?” he asked. In the conversation that followed, the former boss of Foxtel provided descriptions of the food, the architecture and the ambiance of the dog park, and a detailed comparison of the betting odds of the tote versus the bookies.
As well as the lists about the arts, the book contained copious lists of Williams’ top 10 athletes, coaches and teams, Demetriou said: “I looked everywhere and I can’t find my name in any of these lists, and I started to think that I was the 11th person you asked to launch this book.”
Rules of Engagement was a “guidebook to a life well led, which I sense is about to begin again,” Demetriou concluded.
In his speech, Williams said we were living through an unprecedented upheaval, a “transfer of power from producers to consumers”, which was the “largest citizen empowerment change in human history”.
Saying that he had had an “unusually fortunate and very privileged life”, Williams added that anyone who knew him also knew of his affection for the aphorisms of Mark Twain, in particular that “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything” and the curmudgeonly H.L. Mencken, who said that “the capacity of people to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal”.
In writing the book, he hoped to disprove Mencken and satisfy Twain, he said.