Fairfax AGM, secrets emerge from Holding Redlich's birthday

July 28, 2008

Here are Stephen Mayne's two stories from the Crikey edition on Friday, 18 November, 2005.

7. Lights out at Fairfax, Stephen Mayne misses out on the board

Glenn Dyer and Stephen Mayne report from today's Fairfax AGM:

Within hours of outgoing CEO Fred Hilmer standing down at 10am this morning, Chairman Ron Walker and new CEO David Kirk have given the strongest indication yet of a change of direction for the publishing giant after both hinted strongly at today's AGM that Fairfax is planning something big on the internet.

About 60 journalists in white "Save Fairfax.com.au" T-shirts protested outside today's meeting, including influential left-leaning SMH scribe and former Media Watch presenter David Marr. After the meeting started there was some heckling by staff, but the share options for David Kirk and the remuneration report were approved with more than 90 % of the vote. The meeting also seemed unconcerned over Fred Hilmer's $4.5 million parting gift.

Stephen Mayne lost his bid to get onto the Fairfax board, polling a disappointing 7.75% of the vote (he averages 18%), following a blackout at today's Fairfax AGM in Sydney. Just when the AGM was getting interesting, with Stephen Mayne's election to the board about to be decided, out went the power at the Sheraton on the Park in the Sydney CBD. That meant the election of directors had to be conducted in the semi-gloom, illuminated by a few safety lights and Chairman Ron Walker's large torch.

There was a massive charm offensive from Ron Walker on shareholder activist Jack Tilburn, who he kept calling "my good friend" – an interesting contrast to his attempts to cut off Mayne and accuse him of "self-aggrandisement" in standing for the board.

Mayne asked Walker a series of questions about his conflicts of interest, including a glowing review from James Packer who said his appointment as chairman was an "inspired choice," in response to which Walker taked about his high regard for Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and the Packers.

Walker also categorically ruled out plans to appoint Melbourne shock-jock Neil Mitchell as editor of The Age. And under questioning he said he had absolutely no involvement with the Liberal Party in a public, official or private capacity. Back to

36. Secrets emerge at Holding Redlich's 30th birthday

By Stephen Mayne

Bob Hawke's favourite law firm, Holding Redlich, celebrated its 30th birthday in Melbourne last night – and a few little secrets were dropped by co-founder Peter Redlich in his speech at Zinc in Federation Square.

The firm which helped Crikey out big time during our legal struggle with Steve Price, and then also handled the Crikey sale, is not immune from featuring in our columns, especially if they're are game enough to invite us to their big functions.

It was certainly an eclectic bunch of clients attending last night, ranging from an array of union officials to Ansett administrators Mark Korda and Mark Mentha, Ralph Willis, Rupert's mouthpiece Terry McCrann, and Bill Wild, the man who has been anointed as the heir apparent at Leighton Holdings, Australia's biggest construction company.

Peter Redlich actually named his biggest and most loyal clients over the years and what a list it was, including the following luminaries:

Bob Hawke (who sent his apologies from China last night)
Phillip Adams (the first client)
Frank Lowy's Westfield
Mark Besen (retailer and property magnate who BRW values at $800 million)
Central Equity
James Mackenzie (who is now Mirvac and WorkCover chairman)
The late union heavies Norm Gallagher and John Halfpenny
Bill Wild (newly appointed chief operating officer at Leighton Holdings)
Injured workers and the Labor pollies who supported them, including John Cain and Rob Jolly who attended last night

Co-founder Clyde Holding, the former ALP leader in Victoria and Federal member for Melbourne Ports, was good enough to attend last night even though he bowed out many years ago. Redlich said he deliberately hitched his wagon to the charismatic rising Labor star and the two hung out the shingle in 1975 when four partners who'd worked with Clyde Holding for the previous 20 years upped stumps and set up what is today Ryan Carlisle Thomas.

It was Redlich's idea to pursue the hybrid Labor law firm that also did plenty of commercial work, and today he's got 37 partners (not all of whom he likes), including 14 in Sydney and 3 in Brisbane.

While the likes of Phillip Adams and Bob Hawke have been pivotal and long term clients, Holding Redlich these days thrives on the sheer diversity of its client base. Redlich turns 70 next year, but the chairman still held court last night after what has been quite a remarkable career.

Vince Sorrenti provided the entertainment and offered a few barbs for the way he was cut off by Channel Ten on AFL grand final day for mentioning the dreaded "terrorist" word in front of John Howard. The lad was trying again last night to get himself locked up for sedition, but we particularly like the line about Eddie McGuire, who Vince reckons is "The only bloke to move from Broadmeadows to Toorak not wearing a balaclava."