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Thursby trades Asia for Mideast

Thursby trades Asia for Mideast

The twin lures of sand and skyscrapers have again proved too much for an Australian banking executive, with ANZ's Alex Thursby (pictured) the latest to fall under the Middle East's spell.

Media darling Thursby, the mastermind of ANZ's Asian strategy, quit on Wednesday morning to take up the top job at National Bank of Abu Dhabi, the biggest bank in the United Arab Emirates.

Thursby, sometimes touted as a possible successor to CEO Mike Smith, will be following in the footprints of another man who was once thought to be in line to the throne at his organisation, Ahmed Fahour. The Emiratis will no doubt be hoping Thursby lasts longer than Fahour, who was head of NAB's Australian operations and left for Bahrain investment bank Gulf Finance House. He spent just five months in the gig (July to December 2009) before the board "reluctantly" accepted his resignation so he could return home to run Australia Post. That left Ted Pretty as acting CEO. Pretty slashed costs at the struggling bank, which had been belted by its exposure to neighbouring Dubai's property bubble. He lasted a little longer than Fahour - about two years - before coming home (he now runs Hills Holdings).

As for Smith, his commitment to Asia appears undimmed: he'll be in Myanmar on Friday to open an ANZ representative office before heading off to China for the inaugural Boao Forum alongside Fortescue's Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest and PM Julia Gillard.

Pies off menu

Melbourne businessman Steven Vouzas reckons dropped Pies cost him $500,000. That's how much he's claiming for losing Collingwood Football Club as the tenant of a pub he was going to buy.

While the Pies have long written off a disastrous foray into the pub business that cost the AFL club millions of dollars, the imbroglio continues to echo in the courts.

In a battle that has reached the Victorian Supreme Court, Vouzas has taken legal action against Bleake House Hotel, which was going to sell him the Beach Hotel in Albert Park for $11 million.

Vouzas wants his $500,000 deposit back, plus interest and costs, claiming Bleake House and real estate agent Rudy Kelemen failed to tell him Collingwood had offloaded the lease over the pub to Geelong pub tsar Rick Munday.

Not so, says Bleake House, which claims that because Vouzas didn't go through with the sale, he has forfeited the deposit and should stump up an additional $2.2 million for "loss and damage".

In his statement of claim, Vouzas alleges he met Kelemen in October 2008 and asked about rumours Collingwood had sold the Beach Hotel lease, to which Kelemen responded there was "no truth" to it and "it is only a rumour". However, Vouzas alleges that by the time of the meeting, Collingwood had already agreed to sell the lease to Munday's company, Simham. The Pies struck the deal with Simham, "a company with paid-up capital of only $15 and with no assets of significance", on August 8, 2008, Vouzas claims.

Munday declared bankruptcy with debts of $65 million in 2011 after the collapse of his pub empire the previous year. Bleake House says Collingwood's agreement with Munday was only conditional and never went ahead. Therefore, advertising material touting Collingwood as a tenant was correct at the time.

Kelemen says he told Vouzas Collingwood was interested in selling the lease to Munday for about $3 million but "there can be a lot of hurdles to doing property deals and that until the ink is dried, a deal is just a rumour". Kelemen also says responsibility for the advertising material falls on Bleake House, not him.

While his club is at the centre of the case, the man they call Eddie Everywhere, Collingwood president and former Nine Network boss Eddie McGuire, was nowhere to be seen during hearings last month. Justice Cameron Macaulay is yet to hand down his judgment.

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