Kevin & Julia show a boon for pay TV

Not all business leaders appear too concerned about the leadership catfight between the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and her predecessor, Kevin Rudd.

Not all business leaders appear too concerned about the leadership catfight between the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and her predecessor, Kevin Rudd.

Yesterday, the chief executive of the regional pay television concern Austar, John Porter, was actually relishing in the best dose of political instability seen in Australia for decades.

"When I think back on the history of pay television, some news events have been actual drivers for our cable television penetration," an upbeat Porter told the group's results briefing.

"In fact, in 1991, first Gulf War, which was the actual first war that you could watch on television like a video game, pay-TV penetration in the US increased, I think, over 4 per cent, which is the highest year-on-year increase that they had experienced historically," Porter said.

The Austar head even noted how the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s "was a major driver for sales because everybody decided, we've got to watch, we have to be there when this major news had happened".

So, as far as Monday's leadership challenge, bring it on. "Hopefully, maybe it will be something that underpins the value proposition," the Austar chief said.

Porter also showed his allegiance to the politician who oversees his industry, the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy.

"I think Mr Conroy should throw his hands up, he's a very impressive fellow," he said.


Porter, who is probably best known outside the pay television industry for the size of his remuneration package, had a relatively lean period last year.

The company disclosed yesterday that Porter suffered a 37 per cent dip in his total remuneration for the year to a destitute $2.29 million.

The fall was largely thanks to Porter seeing his share-based pay for the year fall from $2.14 million to $546,490. But it's not all bad. He is set to get two years of base pay as part of his termination package - worth about $1.7 million - if the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and shareholders approve the takeover of Austar by Foxtel.

Porter is also sitting on $7.7 million worth of stock.


The brokerage firm BBY Limited has pooh-poohed suggestions it is cutting staff numbers following the recent departure of two high-profile employees - the former head of its New York operations (and one of its largest shareholders) Jeremy Dunlop and its head of mergers and acquisitions Nathan Taylor.

"We've doubled headcount over the last 12 months," the executive chairman, Glenn Rosewall, told CBD yesterday.

Despite the job losses being felt across the sector, Rosewall said BBY was still looking for staff in the futures, foreign exchange, fixed interest and private client areas. "We can deal with the downturn in volumes," the son of tennis great Ken Rosewall said. "We prepared ourselves for that," he said, arguing that BBY was one of the lower-cost operators in the market.

BBY's head of research sales, Doug Picken, will soon take charge of the firm's New York branch. The company said it has also found a replacement for Taylor.


The chief executive of the property and retirement home operator FKP, Peter Brown, helped provide some handy management-speak to analysts yesterday on what happens when people grow old.

"As everyone lives longer, what's going to come through is that the frailties are going to come through," Brown explained.

The FKP boss also appeared to show disappointment over how people were staying healthy longer, noting how the "entry age [was] moving closer to 80".


The lure of the Bank of Queensland has proved too sexy for one loyal Virgin employee to resist. Virgin Money's fitness-mad Australian chief executive, Matt Baxby, was named yesterday as BoQ's head of retail online banking.

Baxby, who headed Virgin Money for three years, joined the Richard Branson empire in 2002 before his brother David, a former investment banker who now heads the group's aviation investment business in Switzerland. "It is a chance for Matt to broaden his horizons," Matt's always supportive Geneva-based brother said.

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