APN directors had very little interest

APN directors had very little interest

Bolshevik shareholder Independent News & Media has stormed troubled media company APN's Winter Palace and turfed out the company's directors. On to the wine cellar, comrades!

But a flurry of final directors' notices issued by the exiting board on Friday makes CBD wonder why INM thinks it can live without their business smarts. It turns out that all but one of the outgoing directors had the foresight not to invest in one particular rotten stock: APN.

Chairman Peter Hunt? Zero shares. Independent directors Melinda Conrad, John Harvey and John Maasland? Zero shares.

Unfortunately, the only former boardroom denizen revealed to own shares in the under-performer was the one tasked with running the show: CEO Brett Chenoweth.

He owns 306,000 shares and 750,000 performance rights (valued at just $81,300 in the 2011 annual report, CBD doubts they are worth that much now).

Even though INM now occupies the palace, it has yet to appoint a new czar. Executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles is looking for a new CEO, but there's no deadline for the coronation. In the meantime, senior executives who formerly reported to Chenoweth are reporting to a football-club style "leadership team" made up of directors Ted Harris, Peter Cosgrove and Jeff Howard.

Meanwhile, the company has taken another blow in its long-running $NZ72 million stoush with Kiwi tax authorities.

The NZ Inland Revenue Department has been pursuing APN for years over what the company coyly calls "certain financial transactions" dating back to 2005.

On Friday, APN received word that the IRD's assessment of $NZ48 million in tax, plus interest and a 50 per cent penalty, had been upheld by a tribunal. The company says it will fight the decision in the NZ High Court.

While it hasn't explained exactly how it got into this pickle, CBD wonders if the brouhaha has anything to do with APN setting up an Irish special purpose vehicle called Marnin Ltd in 2005, "to enter into a finance transaction on behalf of the group".

It's just another problem for the new CEO to resolve.

Vote 1 Mr Burns

With James Warburton dropped into a shark tank after just a year and 12 days in the job, it has become clear that Ten Network, like Spectre, is an organisation that does not tolerate failure.

So it's anyone's guess how long Hamish McLennan, seconded from News Corp's office of the chairman (Keith Rupert Murdoch) will last.

If, god forbid, McLennan was to get the boot, who could possibly take the toughest job in Australian show business?

"My view is Montgomery Burns is the best guy to take over," former Ten co-owner Laurence Freedman told CBD. "Nobody else is tough enough, hard enough and willing enough to do what they need to do."

He reckons television is a "long game" and it's a mistake to dump a CEO after just 12 months.

"I think Eddie McGuire lasted longer [as head of Nine]," he said.

Indeed he did - Eddie Everywhere was Nine CEO for 16 months and 17 days before being boned in 2007.

Other apparent ephemera that lasted longer than Warburton's stint at Ten include the marriage of James Packer's buddy, celebrity Scientologist Tom Cruise, to Dawson's Creek waif Katie Holmes (five years), James' own marriage to swimsuit model Jodhi Meares (more than two years) and the "career" of toothy Sydney socialite Lara Bingle (six years and going strong).

MLC consults

The winds of change are blowing through the $147.5 million campus of Methodist Ladies College, in Melbourne's leafy Kew, and they may ruffle the hair of the private school's elite board of directors before they subside. The high-powered mob includes Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour, PwC Australia managing partner Tony Peake, NAB director Patricia Cross and Melbourne University Press boss Louise Adler.

In a move foreshadowed following unpleasantness over the sacking of principal Rosa "Stozza" Storelli last September, MLC has written to old girls, parents and teachers inviting them to make written submissions to a review of the school's corporate governance arrangements.

Topics likely to be considered in the review include the process whereby new members of the board are selected by the board, with little input from anybody else.

Becton terminal?

It may be the end for developer Becton, with administrators likely to be called in as early as this week if a deal can't be struck between shareholders and the company's lenders, Goldman Sachs and vulture fund Fortress.

The company is in a trading halt as it attempts to strike a deal with Goldies and Fortress, and director Andrew Kerr, who represented major shareholder Telopea Capital and joined the board only in October, quit on Friday night.

Over the weekend, Darren Olney-Fraser, who heads another big Becton shareholder, Mariner, wrote to chairman Bill Conn demanding either the quick announcement of a debt deal or the scalps of the board.

On Sunday, Olney-Fraser blasted the lenders, accusing them of not consulting with major shareholders, and described Fortress boss David Kelleher as "a ruthless, heartless banker". Isn't that a compliment?

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