CBD

Will Air NZ boss fly off into sunset?

Will Air NZ boss fly off into sunset?

There was no shortage of subtle digs at a common enemy, Qantas, during an Air New Zealand bash in Sydney on Wednesday night.

The waterfront party in Pyrmont was yet another chance to farewell Air NZ's boss, Rob Fyfe (the last of his year of goodbye parties will be in Auckland next week). Attendees included Virgin Australia's Italian stallion, John Borghetti, and his crew, Tourism Australia boss Andrew McEvoy, Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett and Fyfe's successor, Christopher Luxon (who was introduced as the "bald man who used to sell shampoo").

Borghetti was eager to make his way to McEvoy for a deep and meaningful (perhaps yet another chat about Virgin filling the gap in Tourism Australia's budget following Qantas pulling its funding because of TA chairman Geoff Dixon's potential conflicts of interest).

Fyfe had plenty of stories to tell about flying on Qantas to test the competitor's product.

Hours earlier he had flown in from Los Angeles on a Qantas plane. The silver-haired Fyfe told the crowd he didn't get much sleep because the Qantas crew kept asking him what his next career move would be when he steps down at the end of the month.

This despite Fyfe declaring on numerous occasions he does not want to succeed Alan Joyce at the Flying Kangaroo. Obviously not everyone is convinced this is the last the aviation industry will see of this celebrity CEO.

Capital backing

Eight is enough for the Singaporean owners of broker and adviser Octa Phillip, who are dropping the "Octa" part of the name.

The company, formed when Austock was sold to Intersuisse in February, is to be renamed Phillip Capital Australia in a move that will line it up with Intersuisse's backer, Phillip Capital Group.

While a lack of corporate deals and a moribund equities market have made life tough in the broking business, the company is betting on an upswing. It aims to double its Australian private client advice team to more than 150.

Hearings deliver

It's been a big week at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing rooms, where some of Sydney's elite have been fielding questions about an allegedly corrupt coal deal involving ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid and millions of dollars.

There have been star turns from RAMS founder John Kinghorn, recalling how he didn't get "peanuts" for the float of his ill-fated home-loan business, and airline hostess turned socialite Amanda Poole, who had a taxable income of $6 million last year despite not working at all.

CBD made a guest appearance, though so far escaping the ferocious cross-examination of the counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson, SC.

Documents tendered to ICAC include a June 2009 email from James McGuigan to his dad John about their investment in the company at the centre of the ICAC probe, Cascade Coal.

James, who worked at Arthur Phillip, an investment bank run by Mrs Poole's hubby Richard, flagged a report in CBD about land for sale in the Bylong Valley, where Cascade was operating.

"Could be a pure coincidence, but then again our letter mentions Bylong," James told dad. "Could Greg [Jones, a former Labor staffer who had a secret shareholding in Cascade] have passed on to the boys, who planted the article??"

Meanwhile, CBD eagerly awaits the fulfilment of the modestly-named Kinghorn Foundation's "longer-term intention" to "find and support or to establish and fund a Public Affairs Institute to research and promote transparency in Australian state, federal and local government."

Talk's not cheap

Fear must be spreading through public relations covens across the country after a Federal Court judge revealed one of the arcane trade's darkest secrets: how much they charge for their toil.

In April, one James Ashby hired former 60 Minutes producer Anthony McClellan to work media magic as Ashby geared up to sue his boss, speaker Peter Slipper, for sexual harassment. "Mr McClellan's fees were $550 per hour plus GST (ie $605 per hour)," Justice Steven Rares said in a ruling on Wednesday.

McClellan struck a no-win no-fee deal with Ashby, telling his client he would be "seeking my fees from the other side with the successful outcome of your case". Has he been paid? "No," McClellan told CBD.

Step down in class

While the language used in Justice Rares's ruling might be mild by the depraved standards of Canberra politics, by judicial standards it is very strong indeed.

In August, as Ashby and Slipper were making a series of appearances before him, Justice Rares was also working on a judgment in a case brought by local councils who were sold exotic financial instruments by Lehman Brothers. Stretching to more than 1200 paragraphs, the September judgment dealt with complex questions of corporate law and had international ramifications for the derivatives market.

Is it any wonder the judge occasionally seemed a little tetchy as he sifted through the lurid text messages produced in the Ashby case?

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