Mr Packer goes to Hollywood

Mr Packer goes to Hollywood

With his apparently endless supply of both money and luxury filming locations, Crown magnate James Packer would have to be Hollywood's idea of a dream financial backer.

Slim Jim first entered movieland about a decade ago, hanging about the set of mate and Xenuologist Tom Cruise's schlockbuster The Last Samurai and reportedly even wangling an uncredited cameo.

In 2008 he got out of Hollywood, flogging off a 25 per cent stake in studio New Regency that had been built up by dad Kerry.

Now he is back, strictly offscreen, making what a spokesman called a "small private investment" in producer and director Brett Ratner's new company RatPac Entertainment.

Ratner directed music videos for artists including Madonna and Mariah Carey before becoming the creative mastermind of filmic masterpieces such as the Rush Hour series, Red Dragon and the forthcoming Eddie Murphy vehicle Hong Kong Phooey. However, CBD hopes RatPac pumps out more films along the lines of 2005's Santa's Slay, on which Ratner was a producer. In it, Santa is a demon who only hands out toys to kiddies because he lost a bet with an angel. With the curse lifted, Father Christmas, naturally enough, goes on a killing rampage.

Golden days

Ah, those fabulous, dancing days before the global financial crisis came along and stopped the music. Millionaire John Kinghorn was in full reminiscing mode at a corruption hearing in Sydney on Wednesday, harking back to the heady times when he floated home loan business RAMS on the ASX.

Kinghorn spent a fairly torrid day giving evidence before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, which is investigating an allegedly dodgy coal play involving state ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid.

Questioning turned to how it was that Kinghorn and other directors of Cascade Coal sold $60 million worth of shares to Coal and Minerals Group, a company allegedly used to disguise an exit payment to Obeid, for about $70.

Kinghorn told ICAC it was something he'd seen before. "When I floated RAMS home loans, right, it had 2 million shares and we ended up splitting those into about 1¢ each and we had umpteen million and that was then sold on the Australian Stock Exchange, so it's exactly the same," he said.

"Different numbers but the same, exactly the same technique."

Counsel assisting the inquiry: "Are you saying in RAMS there were very large value parcel of shares sold for peanuts?"

Kinghorn: "No, sir, I didn't sell my shares for peanuts, I can assure you."

Indeed he didn't, although those who bought in had a somewhat less happy experience.

RAMS listed on the stock exchange in late July, 2007, after raising $695 million from investors on the back of a prospectus promising the company had a "strong financial outlook".

Entirely reasonably, about $510 million went to Kinghorn.

Just a couple of weeks later global credit markets froze stiff, leaving RAMS unable to roll over $6.17 billion in debt funding.

After just two months as an ASX-listed company, RAMS announced it was selling its name and business to Westpac for up to $140 million.

Since then the company, rebranded RHG, has done tolerably well out of servicing its existing loan book.

It even provided gainful employment for one of Kinghorn's mates, David Coe, the head of another GFC-era flop, Allco, who was a director until November 2010.

Despite these virtues, it has a market cap of about $137 million, sadly reduced from the $884 million it was worth at the time of the float.

Pay claim

Media minnow Motopia has seen off major shareholder Wendy Syme's attack on its board - for the moment. However, a separate stoush between company and owner is rolling on.

In addition to being unhappy with the way Motopia is being run, Syme also reckons that it owes her money.

Syme became a big shareholder in Motopia in 2009 after she sold it her marketing business, cBox, in return for company stock.

She bought the business back for $1 in 2011.

In a statement of claim filed with the Victorian County Court, she alleges the balance sheet and financial ledger she was provided with when she reclaimed control of the company were wrong to the tune of more than $500,000.

"According to the balance sheet, the inter-company loans between cBox and Motopia stood at nil, but, in fact, Motopia owed cBox $73,253.44," the statement of claim alleges.

"Motopia improperly treated payments of $301,620.80 from cBox as distributions of profit, and omitted from the general ledger and balance sheet accounts payable of $211,459.35."

The statement of claim was filed in October. Motopia told the market about the lawsuit on November 30. It denies the allegations.

Expert advice

Is John Hewson the business equivalent of cooch grass? Both keep popping up everywhere.

The latest sighting of Dr John is at unlisted mining explorer Larus Energy, where the corporate Mr Fix-It has agreed to join the board as a non-executive director.

Larus, which may or may not be planning to float, holds rights to explore for petroleum south-east of Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby. Apparently one of Hewson's many hats is as something of an expert on PNG politics.

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