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Hugo this way, and I'll go mine

Has the ANZ chief executive, Mike Smith, staged a sudden U-turn in ideology? The day it surfaced that Smith had ruled out any big pay rises for senior managers at his bank, he was spotted entering the offices of the man he once panned for taking economics lessons from the socialist president of Venezuela.

Has the ANZ chief executive, Mike Smith, staged a sudden U-turn in ideology? The day it surfaced that Smith had ruled out any big pay rises for senior managers at his bank, he was spotted entering the offices of the man he once panned for taking economics lessons from the socialist president of Venezuela.

One wonders what Smith had to say to the federal shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey.

Last October, Smith did not appear too impressed with Hockey's nine-point plan to reform the banking system.

"Peter Costello was a very good treasurer, people like Malcolm Turnbull understand this stuff and are very creditable," Smith said. "But the Liberals' economic credentials have been hijacked by out-there proposals. Mr Hockey seems to be on some kind of personal vendetta. It would appear he has been taking economics lessons from Hugo Chavez."

MINE HOST

Illawarra's favourite coalminer, Arun Kumar Jagatramka, marked the Hindu festival of Sharad Punam yesterday by showcasing his newly-built palace overlooking the yacht harbour in Wollongong.

A day after holding an open day at his mine, the Gujarat NRE Coking Coal executive chairman opened the doors to what is probably the city's most Indian-looking residence. And probably most opulent.

The white two-storey square building (with underground parking) was described by one CBD spy as being in the style favoured by Indian magnates. Among the scores of guests were the local Hawks basketball team (who Jagatramka sponsors), the businessman Nick Whitlam and Gujarat NRE staff.

Dressed in a traditional kurta, Jagatramka helped serve vegetarian nibblies with his wife Mona, who was dressed in an elegant sari. The house, which was built on a block of land Gujarat NRE purchased for $5 million in 2008, was also purified by a Hindu priest before yesterday's ceremony.

One good omen was the view from the house of eight empty coal carriers waiting off the coast. Jagatramka spared no expense on his Taj Mahal by Port Kembla with all of the marble flooring being shipped in from India.

CHANGE OF GUARD

Seven months after being called off the bench to replace the departing Wilson HTM managing director, David Groth, the Brisbane stockbroking firm's founder, Steve Wilson, has announced his retirement.

Wilson will hand over the reins at the end of the month to the firm's 43-year-old head of wealth management, Andrew Coppin, who joined Wilson's in March. The rugby-loving and winemaking Wilson, who will remain on as a director and consultant at the firm, said: "It's a good time to move to the next generation. You really want people driving the business today who are going to be driving in 10 years' time."

Despite Wilson HTM's share price trading at a 79 per cent discount to its 2007 listing price of $2, its 57-year-old founder said there were some positives about the present troubles in the financial sector.

"Whilst things are tough in the market, there are all sorts of people being put on the street. So we are interested in looking at doing some selective hiring," he said.

Wilson, who was until last year the acting chairman of the Queensland Rugby Union (during a turbulent period), said he is now on the lookout for new directorships.

"I lived through a number of bad times in the many years that I have been actively managing in this industry but I am quite excited about Andrew and his executive leadership team taking the firm forward," he said.

ON THE BLOCK

KordaMentha is rumoured to have finally offloaded one of the key remaining assets of the Allco-aligned and collapsed property outfit, Record Realty.

After being on the selling block well before Record Realty was placed into receivership in 2009, it is believed the ASX building at 20 Bridge Street has been sold for $190 million to the RREEF fund. The proceeds will help pay off a $193 million debt with Bank of Scotland International.

Meanwhile, the developer Grocon is said to be looking at selling its 25 per cent stake in the under-construction 163 Castlereagh Street skyscraper to the Industry Superannuation Property Trust. The tower is the new Sydney headquarters of ANZ Bank and Freehills lawyers with a total value of about $800 million.

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