Changes afoot at talking shop

Changes at the helm of Gerard Henderson's talking shop the Sydney Institute, where deputy chairman Rob Ferguson has quit the board.

Changes at the helm of Gerard Henderson's talking shop the Sydney Institute, where deputy chairman Rob Ferguson has quit the board.

Chairman Nick Johnson told CBD that board member Lynn Ralph will step up to take the deputy gig and Ferguson remains "a great friend of the institute".

Ferguson, who, in addition to long service on the institute board, is chairman of GPT and a director of litigation funder IMF, said he was "thinking it is time for others to have a go, especially as I am travelling a lot more with my grandkids in school holidays".

The institute's board is pretty high-powered. In addition to Ralph, who is chairman of BT Funds Management, members include property investor Joe Gersh and Stockland director and Besen family scion Carol Schwartz. Past board members include shining lights Ross Garnaut and Lindsay Fox, in addition to slightly more tarnished figures in Meredith Hellicar (whose ban from being a company director over the James Hardie affair expires at the end of this month) and Rodney Adler (jailed in 2005 for dishonesty over his role as a director of failed insurer HIH).

Howcroft happy

A come-from-behind victory by struggling AFL club Melbourne at the MCG at the weekend brought supporters out of their mansions to celebrate, with Ten Network general manager and Demons board member Russel Howcroft among the throng at Richmond pub the Prince Alfred on Sunday night. As the evening wore on and renditions of the club's theme grew more enthusiastic but less precise, a vest-clad Howcroft was seen deep in conversation with the Melbourne coterie.

With problems at Melbourne solved - for this week at least - Howcroft can get on with curing the ills of perennial laggard Ten. If he can keep chairman Lachlan Murdoch's missus Sarah off the screen (her dance show was axed last year after 10 days) and stop Lachlan recruiting another dud breakfast host along the lines of Kiwi horror show Paul Henry, there might yet be hope.

No 'skin in game'

Australand indie directors Beth May Laughton and Stephen Newton were re-elected to the board at the developer's AGM on Monday, but not before facing awkward questions from the Australian Shareholders Association over the zero shares they own in the company.

Laughton said she was still considering buying, but added there was only a short period to trade and she was reluctant to dive in while the group awaited the outcome of a strategic review by major shareholder, CapitaLand. Newton said that while it's considered good to have "some skin in the game", he preferred to focus on "looking out for all the shareholders, not just my own [holding]".

And as for that much-mooted potential corporate activity, all chairman Olivier Lim or MD Bob Johnston had to say was that the board was working hard to "maximise shareholder value".

Hang the noise

Hangar 96 at Qantas' jet base at Sydney Airport has become a regular stomping ground for Alan Joyce. Last Thursday the airline's chief executive was there again, hosting a dinner for about 1000 guests. And on Monday, he was back to spruik Qantas' redirection of funding from Tourism Australia - chaired by former mentor Geoff Dixon - to NSW's tourism body.

But hangars have drawbacks for press conferences. As he took to the podium, a racket began emanating from the A380 in the hangar. "This is the trouble with doing this in a hangar," Joyce said. "I'm sure the guys are doing an important job on the A380." Shortly afterwards, NSW Tourism Minister George Souris also had to raise his voice as a 737 was parked at a nearby gate. The engineers spared NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell.

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