Author: Michael West

Walker to step down from Fairfax

FAIRFAX Media chairman Ron Walker is expected to step down at the company’s annual meeting in November. Mr Walker, who had pledged to stand for re-election and serve until August, told BusinessDay last night he would recommend Woolworths’ former chief executive, Roger Corbett, as his successor. ”I will be meeting with Roger and the major (Fairfax) shareholders on Monday and Tuesday to determine their views on a possible succession program should I not stand for re-election at the annual general meeting,” he said. The Fairfax boardroom has been bitterly divided, with John B. Fairfax and his son Nicholas opposing Mr Walker’s re-election, and Mr Corbett and other independent directors supporting Mr Walker. The decision by the chairman to fall on his sword should help to resolve the impasse, sources said last night. A spokesperson for Marinya Media said: ”We have acknowledged Roger’s strengths. Roger’s re-election is a matter for shareholders.” Long-standing divisions in the Fairfax boardroom turned into outright hostilities last Thursday after Mr Walker announced he would retire on August 10 next year. Later that day, Mr Fairfax’s Marinya Media, which owns 9.7 per cent of the company, issued a statement highly critical of Mr Walker and pledging to vote against his re-election at the AGM. Mr Walker and his board allies responded by challenging Mr Fairfax’s critical statement. The five independent directors said they supported Mr Walker....

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Walker to step down as Fairfax chairman

THE chairman of Fairfax Media, Ron Walker, is expected to stand down at the Fairfax annual general meeting in November. Mr Walker, who had pledged to stand for re-election and serve until August, told the Herald andThe Age last night that he would recommend the deputy chairman, Roger Corbett, a former Woolworths chief executive, as his successor. ”I will be meeting with Roger and the major [Fairfax] shareholders on Monday and Tuesday to determine their views on a possible succession program should I not stand for re-election at the annual general meeting,” he said. The Fairfax boardroom has been bitterly divided, with John B. Fairfax and his son Nicholas opposing Mr Walker’s re-election, while Mr Corbett and other independent directors are supporting him. The chairman’s decision to fall on his sword should help to resolve the impasse, sources said. A spokesperson for the Fairfaxes’ private company, Marinya Media, said: ”We have acknowledged Roger’s strengths. Roger’s re-election is a matter for shareholders.” Simmering tensions in the Fairfax boardroom turned into outright hostilities last Thursday after Mr Walker said he would retire on August 10 next year. Later that day, Marinya Media, which owns 9.7 per cent of Fairfax Media, publisher of theHerald, issued a statement highly critical of Mr Walker and pledging to vote against his re-election. Mr Walker and his board allies responded by criticising the statement. Both the...

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Corbett ‘unlikely’ Fairfax chairman

THE prospect of the former Woolworths chief executive Roger Corbett becoming the new chairman of Fairfax received a setback yesterday after it emerged that influential investors consider him ”too close” to the current chairman, Ron Walker, and incapable of delivering ”genuine renewal” for the board. Sources closely aligned to the Fairfax family and their Marinya Media company told the Herald last night that Mr Corbett, although talented, would represent ”more of the same” and not deliver the independent chairman the company needed. ”Roger can put his hat in the ring if he wants to, but he has tied himself too closely to Walker,” one source said. ”The company needs genuine renewal and you are not going to get that with Roger. We’ve got to get away from being grocers to be a media company.” The issue will be debated by the warring parties this week in an attempt to reach a compromise, before the notice of meeting goes out for the annual general meeting on November 10. The Walker camp is expected to push for Mr Corbett to succeed Mr Walker as chairman, while the John B. Fairfax camp is tipped to reiterate its calls for an independent search firm to scout for an external candidate. Divisions in the Fairfax boardroom turned into an extraordinary public spat last Thursday after Mr Walker – who was celebrating his 70th birthday...

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Telco’s break-up good for consumers, bad for shareholders

THE Government’s decision to split Telstra may prove a boon to consumers but has incensed shareholders of the telecommunications company who had no inkling their investment would be cut in two when they acquired shares at privatisation. The sharemarket pronounced its early verdict on the plan for ”structural separation” of the telco yesterday, driving down its share price by 14¢, or 4.3 per cent, to $3.11 a share. Until now, Telstra has been able to use its market muscle to charge competitors for access to its cable networks. This arrangement has angered rival Optus and other competitors, which have long complained of high access prices, and led to about 150 access disputes that have poisoned relations between government regulators and Telstra management for the past decade. Telstra’s gain, by charging for access to its networks, has meant higher prices for competitors, and the structural separation should finally provide a level playing field. But there is little consolation for shareholders. About $1.5 billion was wiped from the value of the company’s shares yesterday as investors sold in anticipation of a hit to Telstra’s profit. Given the poor performance of T2 and T3 – the last two tranches of Telstra to be privatised – structural separation added insult to injury. The original float of Telstra in 1997 was priced at $3.60 a share. The euphoria of the dotcom boom sent the...

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Little consolation for angry shareholders

THE break up of Telstra may prove a boon to consumers but has incensed shareholders who had no inkling when they acquired shares in the privatisation that their investment would be split. The sharemarket pronounced its early verdict on the plan for ”structural separation” of Telstra yesterday, driving down its share price by 4.3 per cent, or 14 cents, to $3.11 a share. Until now, Telstra has been able to use its market muscle to charge competitors for access to its cable networks. This arrangement has angered Optus and other competitors who have long complained of high access prices, and led to some 150 access disputes which have poisoned relations between Government regulators and Telstra management for the past decade. Telstra’s gain, by charging for access to its networks, has meant higher prices for its competitors, and the structural separation should finally provide a level playing field. For shareholders, though, there is little consolation. Some $1.75 billion was wiped from the value of the company’s shares yesterday as investors sold in anticipation of a hit to Telstra’s profits. Given the poor performance of T2 and T3 – the last two tranches of Telstra to be privatised – structural separation added insult to injury. The original float of Telstra in 1997 was priced at $3.60 a share. The euphoria of the dotcom boom sent the stock spiralling and underpinned the...

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New Michael West Podcast

Created by PodcastOne, this 3 part series looks into how Australia has gone from one of the cheapest countries in the world for energy to one of the most expensive, and reveals just what has happened with our gas and electricity supply and why we are on the verge of an energy crisis.

Listen to THE ENERGY TRUTH on the PodcastOne website

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