The author has been described by News Ltd as an "iconoclast", "Svengali", a pollie's "economist muse", and "pungently accurate". Fairfax says he is a "Renaissance man" and "one of Australia’s most respected analysts." Stephen Koukoulas concludes that he is "85% right", and "would make a great Opposition leader." Terry McCrann claims the author thinks "‘nuance’ is a trendy village in the south of France", but can be "scintillating" when he thinks "clearly". The ACTU reckons he’s "an enigma wrapped in a Bloomberg terminal, wrapped in some apparently well-honed abs."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sublime Terry McCrann: Packer may saddle up alongside Rinehart

One of Terry's best columns in a long-time (excerpt only). And he nails the "spurious" separation of the management of a media business from its alleged editorial independence:

There is a further delicious aspect to all this. So far has Fairfax fallen, so inept has been its treatment of Rinehart, that for the first time Packer fils could actually be interested in buying into its end game. There's now a greater chance of a Packer making 'that walk' than at any time in at least the past dozen years. Not, I hasten to add, with the desire to own the two main papers. That remains the very last thing that this Packer would want. But purely as a numbers game. Rinehart could have the papers, Packer would aim to finesse the parts being worth more than what you would have to pay for the whole. An outcome, it is crucially worth noting, that would only be possible if someone was prepared to buy the two main papers.

And the only one so willing, possibly quite literally, is probably Rinehart.Whereas the thought of a move on Fairfax through the 1990s was an emotional doodle for his father, any such move today would be a clinically intellectual one for Packer...But if you understand how Packer's mind works, the mathematical precision which probably always destined him for gaming - and has been further invigorated by the arithmetic of China - he couldn't be otherwise than mentally doodling the Fairfax numbers.

Especially as Rinehart is the perfect partner for any such move on Fairfax. And especially as Corbett -- and CEO Greg Hywood -- have all but, if unintentionally, laid out the red carpet. Corbett could have brought Rinehart into the boardroom. I would have thought he would have believed that he could have controlled her and made her an effective shareholder-director. Apparently he did not have that confidence. Rejecting her on the ground that she would not sign the 'non-interference' charter was not just silly but an invitation to war. She would not and could not be 'just another director' who'd bought a nominal 2000 or even 10,000 shares. She has put serious money into the company, and ideology aside, is perfectly entitled to decline to be shackled, in terms of ensuring the company is not mismanaged.

And if Corbett can't see with Fairfax's broader decline, and the very announcement of Monday, that the editorial content cannot be separated from spuriously 'management issues,' it announces he shouldn't be chairman. Worse, was that he could never succeed. Against both her firepower and the long slide in the Fairfax share price. The very exercise of so arrogantly antagonising her invited not just her move to near 20 per cent, but invited other players like Packer to join the game...

There's nothing of that in Rinehart's pursuit of Fairfax. It's what's called a vanity buy. Just because she wants it. But that's really telling us - and Fairfax - something very important. Nobody would actually want to buy Fairfax as a business. Far less as a core building block for a 21st century business.