No Coe zone for Qantas activists

While chief Qantas joystick-waggler Alan Joyce loves to call the Sydney set stalking his airline's register the "APA Mark II club", there's one name from the original push missing from the membership list this time around. That would be the man who piloted one of the global financial crisis's most spectacular crashes, former Allco executive chairman David Coe.

While chief Qantas joystick-waggler Alan Joyce loves to call the Sydney set stalking his airline's register the "APA Mark II club", there's one name from the original push missing from the membership list this time around. That would be the man who piloted one of the global financial crisis's most spectacular crashes, former Allco executive chairman David Coe.

Coe was a key player in the original attempt by Airline Partners Australia to bid for Qantas and is frequently sighted hanging about with APA II syndicate member John "Singo" Singleton at the marketing guru's Sydney pub.

He was also in Global Aviation Asset Management, an airplane leasing business involving Singo and many of the same APA players, which was sold last year at a tasty profit. However, CBD has confirmed he is not involved in the new group, put together by investment banker Mark Carnegie, that is attacking Qantas management.

In 2007, APA Mark I offered Qantas shareholders $5.45 a share, plus a 15? dividend, in a bid supported by the Flying Kangaroo's board.

Management, including then-CEO Geoff Dixon, who reportedly is in APA II, stood to receive millions in "accelerated equity".

Sadly, it was not to be, as the bid failed to get over the line.

With Qantas now worth about $1.35, investors who rejected the offer must be kicking themselves.

Their loss is taxpayers' gain. As the APA plan involved loading Qantas up with $10.65 billion in debt, the airline would almost certainly have collapsed when the financial crisis hit. Given restrictions on foreign ownership of Qantas, a government bailout would have been inevitable.

On the spice route

CBD hasn't been able to reach Coe, but the trail of the elusive corporate figure leads deep into the jungles of the hospitality industry.

He is often spotted lunching at Neil Perry's chophouses, and company documents show that he is more than just a customer to the ponytailed celebrity chef.

The former Allco boss was also involved in the Sydney and Melbourne outposts of Perry's Spice Temple empire. And he wasn't out the back slicing potatoes.

Coe was a director of two companies, Spice Temple and Spice Temple of Melbourne, from June last year until February this year.

Attempts to contact Coe through Paul Brown, his partner at Ligara Capital, came to naught.

Risky business

On its website Ligara says it focuses on "risk transfer structures supporting the future value of various types of property, plant and equipment; for operating leases, tenor flexibility, portfolio reconstruction and credit enhancement".

It's a pity investors who did their shirts in the failed Allco group didn't have a "risk transfer structure". Allco Finance Group shares, which had changed hands for as much as $12.86 in late 2006, were declared worthless in May 2009.

Atkinson grilled

Shucks, if only they'd asked! John Atkinson, a former Sydney partner at law firm Baker & McKenzie, faced an unpleasant day on the the wrong side of the witness box at an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing on Tuesday.

Atkinson was being grilled about the 2010 transaction whereby he and four other directors of White Energy (John Kinghorn, John McGuigan, Travers Duncan and Brian Flannery) were going to sell their privately owned Cascade Coal to White Energy for a $500 million. None of the five White directors involved in the related-party deal thought it might have interested either the ASX or White's shareholders to know the family of controversial Labor MP Eddie Obeid had secretly owned 25 per cent of Cascade and had been paid $28 million to "sanitise" the deal. Atkinson told the inquiry it was up to White's independent board to find out.

When asked how the independent board could find out about the Obeid interest, Atkinson replied. "Through due diligence."

"What were they going to do? Beat it out of you?" asked counsel assisting. As it turned out, curly questions from the ASX led to White's then chairman Flannery pulling the pin on the deal in April 2011.

Sage tackled by tax

It has been a tough couple of weeks for Perth Glory owner and mining entrepeneur Tony Sage.

Last week, Paul Kelly, the chief executive of his football club, quit after a kerfuffle over the Glory's ill-fated pursuit of Harry Kewell.

Now, one of Sage's companies, Cape Lambert Resources, has had to stump up $33 million to keep the taxman from the door.

The money, half of a surprise tax bill received in May, will be handed over to the ATO while the dispute wends its way through the system - something Sage told the market on Tuesday could take up to three years.

Last week, Cape Lambert received a please-explain letter from the ASX after heavy trade saw its stock price dive from 24? to 19?.

The fall could have had nothing to do with the impending handover of a huge wad of cash to the taxman because, as the company said, it was "continuing its discussions with the Taxation Office ... no recovery action has yet been instigated by the ATO".

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