No credit for opening salvo at Alumina in 2003

By Stephen Mayne
January 18, 2008

This moan about press coverage after the 2003 Alumina AGM was sent to Crikey subscribers on May 5, 2003.

Whilst Crikey's sister-in-law Patricia Piccinini continues to get an amazing run in the media, being a media critic with lots of enemies sure doesn't help your cause as an activist trying to build a culture of shareholder pressure in Australia.

Friday's two-pronged attack from Crikey on outgoing WMC chairman Ian Burgess and then the board of Alumina, formed a key part of several reports in the Saturday papers. Alas, there wasn't any attribution anywhere.

It was Crikey who got up and said that Alumina was only a post-box and that 5 directors earning $85,000 a year and $212,500 for chairman Don Morley was clearly excessive.

Morley admitted that the AWAC joint venture only cost $3.5 million to run when it was part of WMC but this has now blown out to $8 million even though the only asset is a passive 40 per cent stake in the AWAC joint venture which is controlled and run by Alcoa out of Pittsburg.

If ever there was an argument for calling an EGM to sack an entire board then Alumina is it. They've recycled tired old directors such as Mark "Pasminco, Mayne, Homeside" Rayner and retrenched BHP veteran Ron McNeilly. They are supported by long-standing WMC lawyer and Melbourne Club type Peter Hay and Don Morley who ran WMC's finances for almost 20 years.

Morley was one of those executives who voted to reject Alcoa's $10.20 a share takeover bid and now the two split companies are only worth about $8.40. So not only did he cost the shareholders 20 per cent of their capital, he then picks up a handy $212,500 company for chairing a company which is literally a post-box with just 8 staff.

You might remember Eli Greenblat's huge spray at Crikey a few weeks ago so it came as no surprise that he failed to mention our role in his report for The Age. The Australian and Herald Sun also went hard on the excessive fees and cost to run a post-box company but the Weekend AFR was predictably tight and they only ran a couple of briefs from Ian Howarth.