Giving Ian Burgess a farewell spray from WMC in 2003

By Stephen Mayne
January 17, 2008

The man many held responsible for the disaster at AMP got a much-deserved earful at his final outing as a public company chairman in 2003. This was first published in Crikey.

Firstly, let's get a reverse ferret out of the way. This morning's rave against former AMP chairman and WMC chairman Ian Burgess incorrectly said he was up for election today and seeking another three years.

Whoops. He was listed as one of the directors due to retire at the meeting but Crikey missed the bit which said he was not submitting himself for re-election. Sorry about that.

That said, we still had a very robust exchange at the Regent Theatre. I was so angry that the delivery was very shaky towards the end but this is a summary of Crikey's comments at the WMC meeting this morning with a couple of extra digs chucked in for good measure:

"Whilst it would be polite to wish you well in your retirement Mr Burgess, the circumstances of yesterday's AMP debacle mean that one cannot pass up the opportunity to reflect on a few matters on this your last day as a director of a public company.

"AMP has now lost about $10 billion from its crazy frolics into the UK and reinsurance, most of which happened during your tenure as chairman. You were the chairman who hired George Trumbull, you were the chairman who appointed Paul Batchelor as CEO and you were the chairman who signed off on those disastrous UK takeovers and the GIO.

"It is remarkable that you have no sense of embarrassment about this and chose to stay on the stage as chairman of WMC for three years after your exit from AMP in March 2000. Have you no shame.

"You left AMP with a $1.2 million retirement payout. Why don't you follow the lead of your successor Stan Wallis and pay the money back?

"Afterall, not only did you help lose $10 billion at AMP but you continued to inflict damage on their shareholders and policyholders in your final term as chairman of WMC.

"When Alcoa came along and offered $10.20 a share for WMC almost two years ago, this was an offer to give AMP Life more than $300 million for its 16 million WMC shares.

"But the WMC board rejected this takeover and claimed they would create more value by splitting the company in two - a move that preserved the tenure of directors such as yourself.

"The combined price of WMC Resources and Alumina today is only worth $8.34 a share so AMP Life's combined stake is today worth $70 million less than what Alcoa was offering.

"So it wasn't enough to cost AMP $10 billion, you've then managed to subsequently inflict another $70 million in damage at WMC after AMP gave you the boot.

"Why don't you follow the lead of Stan Wallis and be decent enough to donate to AMP your impending $700,000 retirement cheque from WMC.

"Whilst this would only amount to 1c in the dollar for the $70 million you've cost AMP, it would at least show a sense of accountability."


Burgo never showed much respect for small shareholders and his response can be paraphrased as follows. However, I didn't get it all down exactly so maybe tomorrow's papers will have the exact quotes.

Burgo said something like: "I will take no notice of you Mr Mayne. What you have said is a load of emotional nonsense. It is a load of rubbish. I must say, what goes on your website is usually rubbish too"

"When I left the AMP board, what was it Adrienne (former AMP director and current WMC director Prof Adrienne Clarke), the share price was $16 or $18 dollars.

"What has happened since then I wouldn't have a clue about as I've had nothing to do with it."

So the answer to your question (about donating the 700k retirement payout) is "No" and I can say that because I'm retiring."