Milgrom's millions proudly on display

KA-CHING! For most retailers, life over the past two years has been naught but woe, misfortune and penury. Just ask them.

KA-CHING! For most retailers, life over the past two years has been naught but woe, misfortune and penury. Just ask them.

Not so for the owner of Sussan and Sportsgirl, Naomi Milgrom, who last year extracted a hefty $20 million dividend from her fashion empire.

This brings the winnings that Milgrom, the daughter of retailing billionaire Marc Besen, has extracted from her group to $51 million over two years - a chunk of which has been funnelled into the arts.

At about this time last year, when it was revealed that Milgrom had taken a $31 million dividend, the speculation was that some of the money would be donated to the National Gallery of Victoria, where she is a trustee.

"Although I don't normally discuss details of organisations I support, I have made a donation but that's really a matter between me and the National Gallery of Victoria," Milgrom told CBD on Monday.

Last year, it was widely expected that art lover Milgrom was also to be appointed president of the gallery, replacing Australia's richest QC, Allan Myers. But when news of the mooted donation broke in The Age, Milgrom's appointment quickly became a disappointment.

Apparently snooty arty types regard public discussion of large wads of dosh as being a little like a Ken Done canvas - awfully vulgar.

The gallery gig went instead to veteran broker Bruce Parncutt of Lion Capital.

CBD has no idea if there's anything left of Milgrom's cash stash after giving to the NGV, but wonders if she's planning to follow the lead of Tasmanian gambler David Walsh and open a private museum.

Together with her Sydney-based husband, John Kaldor, Milgrom has one of the best collections of contemporary art in the southern hemisphere, and the power couple already bring art to the masses through Kaldor Public Art Projects.

Walsh's Museum of Old and New Art sits in a Bond villain-esque bunker and CBD last spotted the man himself grinding to hip-hop with girlfriend Kirsha Kaechele at 2am in a Hobart laneway during his Mona Foma festival a week-and-a-half ago.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the rather more strait-laced Milgrom to emulate that kind of behaviour.

Holding up nicely

AS FOR Milgrom's business, accounts filed with the corporate plod by the main company in the group, ARJ Group Holdings, show it did pretty well in 2012.

"It's no secret the retail environment has been very difficult over the past two years, but our brands are holding up reasonably well in difficult conditions," Milgrom told CBD.

While all around it other denizens of the High Street were collapsing into administration, the fashion chain kept profit on track at $30.1 million for the 12 months to July 31, up slightly from $29.9 million in the previous year.

Having weathered the entry into the Australian market of fast-fashion specialists Zara and Topshop, the group's next big challenge will be dealing with the arrival of cheapie chain H&M, which is set to open stores in Sydney and Melbourne this year.

Gift dog loses form

IT'S not even February and already the year's gone to the dogs for ASX chief Elmer Funke Kupper.

His greyhound, Elmer's Gift, was just out of the money two Saturdays ago, finishing fourth in race one at The Meadows despite being favourite.

Bad news for Guide Dogs Australia, who are getting Funke Kupper's half of any winnings.

It did better on the previous two outings at Cranbourne, placing second two weeks in a row.

The dishlicker, which was given to Funke Kupper by Tabcorp after he stepped down as CEO, hasn't won a race since November.

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