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The weight loss empire run by Penrith chemist Tony Ferguson has slimmed down unexpectedly, collapsing last week.

The weight loss empire run by Penrith chemist Tony Ferguson has slimmed down unexpectedly, collapsing last week.

And caught up in the failure is a member of Melbourne's Smorgon dynasty, Barry Smorgon, who owns almost half the group.

In 2009, Ferguson's operation was in the fat, reportedly selling more than $80 million of diet shakes, soups and snacks through chemists across Australia.

But it is not the meal ticket it once was: corporate records show six companies associated with Tony Ferguson Weight Loss went into administration last Tuesday.

Barry Smorgon is a director of each company and owns 49 per cent of the group through his Jalco Group. Ferguson owns the remaining 51 per cent.

CBD spent much of Tuesday trying to get the skinny on the collapse, but information was thin on the ground.

A call to the group's registered address, care of accountants Behrens Rowley, failed to dislodge any morsels. An affable Charles Behrens, who was a director until mid-June, referred all inquiries to administrator Adam Farnsworth of Farnsworth Shepard. So did Smorgon's people, but sadly Farnsworth was unavailable all day.

But a now-deleted thread on the Tony Ferguson website forum provided a few crumbs.

"Is TF on the way out??????" user Fluffypants asked on June 6.

"I had great success with TF three years ago but the product became unavailable from NZ stores without warning. After several calls to the support centre and their reassurance that they were trying to find another supplier, nothing has happened.

"After reading several posts on this forum and FB, it appears that the same thing has happened in the UK. Also I see there are several posts relating to sudden closures of TF centres or unavailability of certain products.

"I can't help but smell a rat."

Banker to bard

Commonwealth Bank director Harrison Young swears his erotic tales are completely made up.

The former NBN Co chairman launched his collection of short stories, Partners, in Melbourne on Saturday night at a function hosted by Kath & Kim star Jane Turner.

He also copped to a lifetime of writing, starting with the low art of poetry as a child before moving on to the respectable world of journalism at The Washington Post .

"I published my first poem at the age of seven - in our year-three class newspaper, of which I was the founding editor," Young said.

"I suspect I launched the paper to be able to publish my poems."

He said he'd published two spy novels before branching out into the rude stuff.

"There'd been sex in my novels, of course, but that was just politeness. A spy story without sex is like a dinner party without wine."

While travelling for his gig as a banker with Morgan Stanley, Young wrote his spy thrillers "sitting on the floor in a pin-striped suit, plugged into an outlet meant for a vacuum cleaner".

"In India, they thought I was stealing electricity and made me stop. But most of Asia regarded a banker with his back against the wall as good joss, and the security people left me alone."

He's even come to terms with shopping site Amazon's decision to lump Partners in the "erotica" basket, even if it felt "dismissive" at first. "No honest account of human beings can omit the erotic," he said. "And if the 'erotica' label helps sales, that's OK, too."

All in the timing

That bikini business looked better on Jodhi Meares. Among the swingeing writedowns at wipeout-prone Billabong unveiled on Tuesday, news that the surfwear group values the former Mrs James Packer's swimwear brand Tigerlily at $3.02 million.

The canny businesswoman sold Tigerlily to Billabong in 2007 for between $3 million and $5 million and hasn't had a thing to do with it since last year.

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