FORMER Energy Watch boss Ben Polis faces bankruptcy at the hands of the Tax Office over an unpaid $582,000 tax bill.
Energy Watch collapsed in May last year after a series of racist and sexist rants the Melbourne-based Polis posted to his personal Facebook page came to light.
The resulting media storm triggered a cascading series of disasters for Energy Watch, starting with AFL club Melbourne canning the company's sponsorship and culminating in it going into administration with $8.6 million owing to creditors.
Energy Watch and Polis also attracted the fury of the ACCC, which in July convinced the Federal Court to fine the by-then-broke company $1.95 million and Polis personally $65,000 for misleading advertising. The company ran a website that promised to save consumers money by moving them to cheaper energy suppliers - a business that reaped millions in commissions from energy companies.
Polis overcame childhood ADHD to build a lifestyle complete with all the trappings of success. He owned a $1.4 million house in Middle Park, and accounts filed by one of his other failed companies show he spent company money on dentistry, hairdressing, clothing and a ski holiday. The diminutive entrepreneur also got to strut his stuff on the AFL's night of nights, the Brownlow Medal presentation, walking the blue carpet with a model who towered over him. Those days are long gone; court papers give Polis' current address as his parents' place in Chelsea, north of Frankston.
The court papers don't reveal how Polis ran up such a big bill. However, they show that in October last year the Victorian Supreme Court ordered Polis to pay up - something the ATO alleges he has not done. The ATO has asked the Federal Magistrates Court to declare Polis bankrupt, with a hearing set for March 14 in Melbourne.
Fancy? Bank on it
WHAT better time to get a glimpse of the house investment banker Oliver Curtis could be swapping for the big house. His wife, Sydney PR queen (and author) Roxy Jacenko shows off the couple's modest $6.6 million Woollahra home, renovated for the second time in less than a year, in the latest issue of trash mag Grazia this week.
Curtis, the son of Lynas Corporation CEO Nicholas Curtis, faced court last week, charged with insider trading that allegedly netted him $1 million. He faces up to five years' jail. No mention of this small hiccup in Grazia's spread, illustrated with snaps of Jacenko's collection of Hermes handbags (on display, darling) and Yves Saint Laurent skyscraper heels (seven pairs of the same model).
Over four pages, Grazia's anonymous correspondent oozes about the "chic, sophisticated, not too girlie" furnishings of the home shared by the "loved-up twosome" (and "adorable 18-month-old daughter Pixie-Rose").
There is a glimpse inside Jacenko's accessories drawer, which includes clutches by Alexander McQueen, Comme des Garcons and Celine, as well as a Rolex and - of course - a silver necklace spelling "Roxy".
Apparently Jacenko became unsatisfied with the home "not long into the renovation process", gave up and started over.
"One year and a new decorator later - plus a stint living in the Shangri-La Hotel during the refurbishment - and Roxy is thrilled with her haven," Grazia burbles. Even the smallest room at the Rocks Shangri-La costs $295 or more a night. Grazia faithfully records that Jacenko "admits, rolling her eyes, [it was] a very expensive lesson".
Woollahra, Jacenko says, is "serene, calm and beautiful" - a fair contrast to the confines of the Long Bay Correctional Centre.
We learn Jacenko's fave brands are "Balenciaga, Chanel and Balmain". "But I team high-end with high street, like Levi's denim shorts, Converse and a great pair of luxe sunnies," she explains. Clearly a woman of the people.
Nowt at Nine
NO pay rise for you, Nine Network managing director Jeffrey Browne has told staff. Among other cost-cutting measures announced by the newly saved TV network in Browne's memo to staff on Monday: voluntary redundancies and a clampdown on corporate credit cards, travel and "excess leave". As for pay, the news sounds grim. "The annual pay review which for most employees has previously been effective 1 January will be deferred for a time, pending a significant improvement in the television advertising market," he told staff.
As BusinessDay tipped yesterday, "Diamond" Joe Gutnick has ridden into gold minnow Blackham Resources, snapping up 19.8 per cent of the company and taking the chairman's seat in a $13 million deal. Shares in the company surged 66 per cent on the news, closing at 25¢.