Hoteliers crying in their Super Bowls

Hoteliers crying in their Super Bowls

FOR Jamie Odell's pokie machine company Aristocrat Leisure, taking a clutch of publicans to the Super Bowl in New Orleans must have seemed like a great idea.

Twenty publicans, the Baltimore Ravens clashing helmets with the San Francisco 49ers for the greatest prize in American football; the sights, sounds and smells of steamy New Orleans, with its historic French Quarter; blues, jazz and po'boy sandwiches.

The publicans would have a great time soaking up the sport, culture and food, hopefully coming home suffused with a warm inner glow and positive thoughts about stuffing their pubs full of Aristocrat's pensioner-draining machines. Jackpot!

What could possibly go wrong?

A fair bit, CBD has learnt. One of the publicans on the trip was arrested by New Orleans police and held overnight. Another two were turned into po'boys when their wallets were nicked.

An Aristocrat spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny the arrest and thefts, telling CBD the company took a "considered and responsible approach to our corporate hospitality program".

"Corporate entertaining is a normal part of developing customer relationships," she said.

"We do not comment on our interaction with customers at private events."

Furore brewing

A STORM in a Canberra coffee cup has earned a Robusta response from Mike Quigley's NBN Co.

A brews-ing encounter at Senate estimates on Tuesday saw Quigley put under pressure by Liberal senators in a bid to extract every last drop of information about the gigantic broadband project, which is running latte.

In an exchange that would have provided both sides with grounds to consult their baristas had it not occurred under parliamentary privilege, hypercaffeinated Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy accused Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan of being drunk after Heffernan espresso-ed the opinion he was "full of shit". Catcalling Liberal senator David Bushby's question about coffee costs at the broadband builder also saw Conroy frothing with anger, calling it an "idiot question".

It turns out NBN Co has bought 31 machines at a cost of $164,000, and burns through $4000 of beans a month. But in a statement mocha-ing the question on Thursday, NBN Co said its brew was cheaper than that on offer at Parliament House institution Aussie's Cafe and Sydney's Citta Cafe (near News Limited's Holt Street headquarters).

It reckons its cups cost 16ยข each, compared with $3.40 at Aussie's and at least $3 at Citta.

Adviser benched

IT HAS been a big week for industrial operative Grace Collier, the former union official who now dispenses wisdom for the other side. Collier, who writes a column for The Australian Financial Review, earned oodles of media coverage following a spectacular judicial mention in the Federal Court on Tuesday.

After hearing that Collier wore a microphone in her bra to record a conversation with AMWU official Tony Mavromatis, Justice Shane Marshall asked: "Did she think she was in a James Bond movie? . . . I have grave concerns about Ms Collier's evidence."

It's not the first time Collier has earned ire from the bench. She ran into a spot of bother during a Fair Work Australia stoush between the National Union of Workers and her client, Ross Cosmetics, heard by Commissioner Julius Roe last April.

Sadly, Roe found that bulletins Collier sent to Ross Cosmetics staff during the dispute were "misleading".

"It is understandable that some NUW members believed that Ms Collier was in fact representing Fair Work Australia or the government," he said.

Collier told CBD: "When you are a consultant you act on your client's instructions. I've received numerous calls from union officials congratulating me on my actions." She declined to name them.

Analysing honesty

WHICH bank is fourth-best in Australia? Commonwealth Bank, according to its own analysts.

In a refreshing display of independence, Ross Curran and Jeff Cai of the CBA's equities research arm have given their order of preference of banking stocks as follows: "(1) WBC, (2) ANZ, and (3) NAB". CBD guesses this leaves CBA fourth (unless it's Bendigo Bank or Suncorp).

In the past there has been a perception that Macquarie Group analysts generally slapped a buy rating on their own shop. No such luck for CBA's hard-hearted head teller Ian Narev, with C&C rating the bank a "hold". All this in a note delivered on Valentine's Day.

But while it may not represent champagne, roses and frilly underwear, it's not as if the pair have no love for their employer.

They did reckon the bank has strong earnings, a loan book in good shape and "positive jaws" - the better to swallow up customers, presumably.

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