Woolies boss served disloyalty

Woolies boss served disloyalty

Woolies' new chairman, Ralph Waters, was not letting the anarchy of its AGM distract him from the big issues worrying investors on Tuesday.

He confirmed their worst fears. Disloyal investors were leaving the meeting early to scoff all the food freebies - like free-range ham, cherries and Jamie Oliver prawns - leaving nothing for the loyalists who actually sit through the bum-numbing event. At least the board members share their pain in having to sit out the entire proceedings.

It wasn't all high-level strategies in gluttony though. He made time to explain the minutiae of the company's operations - like offloading Dick Smith last year for hundreds of millions less than it is now being sold to the public.

"We have no embarrassment about the decision we made," he told investors and said anyone interested in the Dick Smith business should buy shares in the coming IPO.

Waters said the decision to dump Dick has helped to add $10 billion in market value to Woolies by allowing it to focus on its core businesses such as food, liquor and pokies.

Dart board sacked

Corporate warrior Rob Millner entered the annals of Australian corporate history this week with back-to-back activist wins.

He fought off investment banker barbarians - Mark Carnegie and Perpetual's Matt Williams - who were aiming to hit Brickworks with a "first strike" on its remuneration report at its AGM on Tuesday.

Millner then turned barbarian himself, using his control of New Hope Coal to force the entire board of Dart Energy to resign, and then went on to get all his nominees elected at Dart's s249D meeting.

The sacked Dart board - which includes rugby legend Simon Poidevin, Nick Davies, and Stephen Bizzell - was surprised to discover a large UK investor was voting with Millner's New Hope which guaranteed their collective demise.

The battle is not over for Carnegie and Perpetual, which have been wrestling with Millner over his family's control of Soul Patts and Brickworks, which Perpetual has labelled a corporate governance shocker. There will be another round in February where the cross shareholding between Soul Patts and Brickworks will be retested.

Harvey goes west

Gerry Harvey forsook the Tattersalls Club for Sydney's Olympic Park for Harvey Norman's AGM this year, but it was the missus - chief executive Katie Page - who made the big call, he says.

"She said, 'This is our heartland, it's the western suburbs. This is where we started'," said Harvey.

"And I said, 'Well, you won't get as many people here'."

Our spy spotted 40 to 50 people in the audience and methinks the old Tatts will get a return visit next year.

Relationship blues

Love hurts. Especially when your pockets are filled with a stock as hot as bean-counting software startup Xero. Chairman Sam Knowles parted ways with more than 205,000 shares worth about $6.5 million due to an "agreed relationship property settlement", he reported to ASX on Tuesday.

Harte for an island

You know your bankers are well-paid when the CIO at the CBA, Michael Harte, can afford to buy his own island in the Mediterranean. Pity the Italian government wants to buy back the tiny island of Budelli, famous for its pink sandy beaches.

At least we know the European crisis is not as bad as everyone is making out, or questionable priorities did not disappear with Silvio Berlusconi and "bunga bunga" parties. But the Italian government may find itself against a fighter in Harte - ask Apple. Last month he trash talked the computer giant over its go-slow on contactless payments technology and took no prisoners. "They told us two years ago that they would have NFC enabled in the [iPhone] 4, it's not even in the 5. They changed the colour of it."

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