Tinkler attacks 'til cows come home

Tinkler attacks 'til cows come home

IN HIS wild and woolly attack on Whitehaven Coal last year, Singaporean bogannaire Nathan Tinkler famously complained that boss Tony Haggarty's "cows at Gunnedah see more of him than his management team".

On Thursday, after announcing his retirement, Haggarty finally responded: "They will now!"

Haggarty owns about 3.3 per cent of Whitehaven, worth $98 million, and sounded relieved to be finally quitting his last executive role. After he reaped $220 million from his sale of Excel Coal in 2006, he joined the board of Whitehaven as a non-executive.

Haggarty says when he took over the managing director's job in 2008 it was meant to be a temporary arrangement. Oops: "It's been 4.5 years," he said.

And there won't be any largesse on the way out - Haggarty is on a 30-day contract. Chairman Mark Vaile was full of praise yesterday, saying Haggarty had even knocked back a pay rise last year despite a recommendation from the remuneration consultants. "That's Tony," said Vaile.

APN drops out

EVEN Rupert Murdoch manages to shuffle to the end of a scratchy old phone line when he needs to communicate with mere mortals, but not even the quiet hiss of digital static greeted long-suffering investors in troubled media group APN who tried to tune in to the company's results webcast on Wednesday.

CEO Brett Chenoweth and independent directors Melinda Conrad, John Harvey and John Maasland self-defenestrated earlier this week following a stoush with major shareholders Independent News & Media and Allan Gray.

With chief financial officer Jeff Howard only a few months into the job, apparently no one was qualified to give the usual riveting corporate presentation to analysts or media.

Both briefings were canned, with the group instead dropping word that it had lost $456 million

in 2012 (about 10 times more

than in 2011) at 8.30am and retreating behind a wall of dignified silence.

"The issues going on in this company are very unusual and I don't think they're going to conduct themselves like this in the future," BBY analyst Mark McDonnell told CBD.

He said the standard of disclosure in the media sector had improved dramatically in recent years, singling out Fairfax Media for praise.

"But it's not just Fairfax - if you look at Seven West, Seven used to be absolutely appalling in terms of the information they provided to the market."

Guarding the rage

CBD'S boss of bosses, Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood, was disclosing strong and long on Wednesday as he announced the company's latest financial results.

The target of his ire: Pommy rag The Guardian, which has climbed into bed with millionaire Wotif founder Graeme Wood to establish a cybernetic beachhead in Australia. "The Guardian is an extremely good brand in some suburbs of London, it's not a strong competitive brand in Australia," Hywood told analysts. "The brands that dominate the public agenda in this country are Fairfax brands and, to give our direct competitors credit, News Ltd brands."

Wood will no doubt be hoping that the Australian Grauniad does better than his last effort, The Global Mail, which appears to be scrolling sideways into the sunset.

Village opens up

IN A move as dramatic as some of the movies they produce, the triumvirate that rules Village Roadshow has relaxed its grip on the notoriously closely held entertainment group, with managing director Graham Burke and directors Robert and John Kirby reducing their controlling interest on Wednesday.

Deutsche Bank spent the day hawking 11 million shares, representing about 7 per cent of the company, in a bookbuild worth at least $46 million that attracted between 20 and 30 institutional investors.

Burke and the Kirbys hope that by reducing their interest in Village from 51 per cent to 44 per cent, the company will become eligible for membership of the ASX 300 index and attract institutional investors.

It's a remarkable change in approach from a group that has in the past left observers wondering why it bothers with an ASX listing.

The three were reluctant to drop below 50 per cent but "otherwise institutions won't enter the register because it's too tightly held", Burke told CBD. He was keen to talk up the prospects of the company, which also announced an 18 per cent increase in profit to $33.4 million for the half-year.

Apparently the theme park business is going great guns and the coming film adaptation of The Great Gatsby is "ready for release".

"We've seen the movie, it's fantastic," Burke said.

"Leonardo DiCaprio hasn't looked as good since Titanic in a romantic lead role."

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