Is there a more controversial family in Australia than the Fahours? Last night, the AFL’s diversity manager Ali Fahour was suspended from playing AFL for life for a “king hit” to an opponent in a country football game. The action was condemned by one-punch campaigners including boxing great Danny Green and former BeyondBlue chair Jeff Kennett.
While media reaction to Fahour’s sickening blow might have been exacerbated by an undercurrent of racism towards the Lebanese-born footballer and AFL executive, unfortunately for Fahour, he has form. Earlier this year, he was suspended for three matches after hitting an unsuspecting opponent, and in 2012, Fahour received a reprimand after he left the playing arena and was involved in an incident with an opposition supporter.
It gets more interesting. Ali’s brother is Ahmed Fahour. Yes, that Ahmed Fahour, who recently resigned as CEO of Australia Post after public outcry over his $5.6 million annual salary, which made him one of the highest paid public servants globally.
In 2000, Ahmed was recruited to Citigroup in New York to work as head of corporate development. Not long after, his brother, Moustafa Fahour, was also appointed by Citi as an investment adviser. In 2004 Ahmed joined NAB as its Australian CEO (receiving a $13 million sign-on bonus), a few years later, Moustafa was appointed by NAB as general manager of private and institutional wealth (understood to be a far more senior role than what he previously held at Macquarie Bank and UBS). Shortly after Ahmed departed NAB in somewhat controversial circumstances, Moustafa would also depart, this time back to Macquarie.
The following year, Ahmed donated $2.85 million to the Islamic Museum of Australia, which was founded by Moustafa. While ostensibly an act of great generosity, the donation was a redirection of his Australia Post bonus. Some questioned whether Fahour should have been paid a bonus at all that year, given Australia Post’s 2010 profit slumped from $380.9 million to only $103 million. Moustafa wasn’t the only Fahour to have a connection to the museum — a sister, former MasterChef contestant Samira El Khafir, would also open the Modern Middle Eastern Cafe at the museum.
As for Ali? As Crikey reported back in 2012, while at Australia Post, Fahour invited 78 clients and acquaintances to travel to the London Olympics on a multimillion-dollar taxpayer funded extravaganza. Guests flew business class to London and stayed at five-star hotels while watching key events as well as the opening ceremony. The total cost of $2.5 million was effectively funded by Australian taxpayers. In addition to key Australia Post clients like Catch of the Day, also in attendance was none other than then-AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou. Demetriou’s attendance seemed especially unusual given that the AFL is not a major client of Australia Post (Demetriou paid for his own accommodation but received hospitality from AusPost).
This, of course, wasn’t the first time Fahour and Demetriou had crossed paths. When Fahour was running NAB in Australia, the bank became the major sponsor of the AFL’s pre-season competition. In total, NAB would pay more than $100 million to the AFL in sponsorship.
At the same time Ahmed Fahour was providing lavish hospitality to Demetriou, and sponsoring the league, Ali Fahour was being promoted to his now former role of AFL diversity manager.
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The former high-flyers aren’t flying quite so high now. Ahmed Fahour quit his role at AusPost after a public outcry including criticism from the Prime Minister about his remuneration. Andrew Demetriou has had a torrid time since leaving the AFL, chairing the advisory board of Acquire Learning, which recently became insolvent and received the second-largest ACCC fine in Australian history for taking advantage of vulnerable consumers, while Ali Fahour is now unemployed and banned from playing football for life.
*Adam Schwab is a former corporate lawyer and the author of Pigs at the Trough: Lessons from Australia’s Decade of Corporate Greed