Macquarie Media battles and bootleg Packer audio

February 2, 2010

Dear Mayne Reporters,

Greetings from an internet cafe next to Central Station in Sydney after a fascinating Macquarie Media AGM and a 90-minute strategy session on shareholder activism with a big union in Haymarket.

Packer audio and video highlights

We've got a range of interesting audio and video action for you today, even though the two James Packer meetings yesterday attempted to ban the use of recording devices.

Firstly, have a listen to the cheeky question from the Consolidated Media Holdings AGM asking directors to raised their hands if they'd read Who Killed Channel Nine? It includes the audio about James Packer's emotional feelings towards Channel Nine.

The AFR's gossip columnist Andrew White reported today that it was actually former UBS Australia boss Chris Mackay who fessed up to reading Gerald Stone's book, not Michael Johnston as we reported yesterday.

Go here for all the audio links to the various exchanges with James Packer and John Alexander at CMH, but the other personal favourite was this effort about the ridiculously large and high-powered board for a post box company that doesn't actually run anything.

The media coverage of James Packer's performance yesterday was pretty light on. It was just incredible that nobody felt Packer's claim to have no margin loans over his $2.5 billion worth of shares in Crown and CMH was even worth reporting.

Crown audio highlights

Go here for all the edited audio files of the various exchanges with James Packer at the Crown AGM, but the three personal favourites are as follows:

The big debt question

Wow, that's a huge protest vote against John Alexander

Big round of applause to James for working for free'

James Packer's security paranoia

The Australian's business editor Andrew Main had a big whack at James Packer for excessive security at yesterday's AGMs and the man himself said he would "take on notice" the suggestion to get with the program and actually webcast next year's AGMs. This is what the clearly peeved Main wrote:

James Packer has clearly taken his enthusiasm for Scientology to the extreme, with a level of paranoid security surrounding yesterday's Consolidated Media Holdings AGM that would have done cult founder L.Ron Hubbard proud.

Scores of black-suited goons kept a close eye on the throng at Crown Casino to make sure no security devices or cameras made it into the room, which journalists had initially been told would be off-limits to media.

Packer and his chairman, John Alexander, then made their entrance and exit via the kitchen to avoid the indignity of having to mutter "no comment" to waiting reptiles. The dodgy tradesmen who feature so heavily on
A Current Affair must wish they had access to similar escape routes.

Security was actually slacker than usual yesterday because they didn't force shareholders to deposit all bags in the cloak room and the goons didn't check for or ask about any recording devices on the way in, despite all the signs banning them.

That said, it is ridiculous that I'm actually bringing you bootlegged audio from an AGM when most normal companies just webcast proceedings to the broader world.

Well done to Macquarie Media for webcasting

Congratulations to Macquarie Media for doing precisely that this morning. Shock, horror - a television company that televises its AGM. Wow, Austar, Seven, Ten, News Corp and CMH should take note.

Macquarie Media chairman Max Moore-Wilton is entertainly combative so we had lots of lively exchanges this morning at the Sheraton on the Park which unfolded as follows:

1. Getting the auditor up on this missing $600m in book value

2. Ding dong battle with Max the Axe over Mac Media's appalling triple stapled Bermudan governance structure

3. Just much has been gouged in fees by Macquarie?

4. The PwC audit conflict

5. Why hasn't Tony Bell put some of that $20m back into Mac Media shares?

The personal favourites are numbers two and five. We had a real ding dong over the triple-stapled Bermuda structure in which Max the Axe managed to suggest that Rupert Murdoch and the late Kerry Packer were both very enthusiastic users of Bermuda.

The exchange over Tony Bell had some personal history given that he was the Southern Cross Broadcasting CEO who authorised the waste of $170,000 of shareholders' funds chasing me through the courts in the name of Steve Price's reputation in that defamation battle which cost us the house but helped make Crikey seven years ago.

Tony did a great job running Southern Cross Broadcasting but it was fun skewering him today for pocketing about $20 million in cash from Macquarie Media in last year's takeover and then not putting even $1 back into Macquarie Media shares, particularly after the recent share plunge.

Bell came up with the thin excuse about the trading window for directors not being opened, so I suggested he start buying this afternoon and even offered him a few loose coins in the pocket if he needed a loan to buy 5 shares at the current beaten up price of $1.26.

Plane to catch and Toll revolt tomorrow

That's all for now as the plane departs shortly, but we'll be back in touch after what is tipped to be a huge shareholder revolt at the Toll AGM in Melbourne tomorrow. If you thought Transurban, Boral and Asciano were big, Toll will probably top the lot.

Do ya best, Stephen Mayne

* The Mayne Report is a multi-media governance website published by Stephen Mayne with occasional email editions. To unsubscribe from the emails click here.