Telstra property chief in dealings with estate agent
Telstra faces claims the company's top property manager is in business with a real estate agent who has received lucrative contracts to sell off millions of dollars worth of the telco's assets.
Vito Chiodo, head of Telstra's property division in Australia and New Zealand, owns a series of commercial properties in partnership with Fred Nucara, director of Melbourne-based agency Beller TBM Commercial.
They jointly control nearly $2 million worth of retail and office assets in the Melbourne outer northern suburb of Whittlesea, which the partners have been buying, developing and leasing for more than eight years.
Land title records show Mr Chiodo and Mr Nucara, who owns the company Gardaland Pty Ltd, began purchasing the properties in 2005.
They have been managed through the Beller agency.
Mr Chiodo, who joined Telstra in 2003, has also been overseeing a property divestiture program for the company as it looks to cut costs by reducing its property holdings.
This includes selling assets that are often located in prime residential and commercial spots.
Mr Nucara and Beller have received numerous listing and sales contracts for Telstra's portfolio over that time, including about $15million worth of properties in the prestigious Melbourne suburbs of Camberwell, Hawthorn East, Elwood and Kew this year.
The relationship has exposed potentially serious flaws in the integrity of Telstra's system for awarding lucrative business contracts, which includes a divestiture program for its multibillion-dollar national property portfolio.
Telstra has declined to comment on the revelations or whether it will take any action. Recent media speculation has suggested that Mr Chiodo is now on indefinite leave.
Industry sources say the sales likely attract commissions of 1 per cent, which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for an estate agency.
Telstra often appoints two firms to handle the sales campaigns.
Fairfax Media does not suggest the contracts were awarded inappropriately.
Telstra does have an explicit policy regarding conflicts of interest, which forms part of the company's "business principles".
It states: "Telstra also has a policy in place regarding conflicts of interest and outside activities, which provides a process to manage conflicts of interest, and assist employees, contractors and managers to understand what Telstra considers to be a conflict of interest and how to deal with any actual or potential conflicts."
Telstra has refused to confirm whether it was aware of the private business relationship between its top property expert and the agent. The telco did not comment on whether the arrangement violated its conflict-of-interest policies.
"Vito is a Telstra employee. We don't comment on internal employee matters," spokesman Scott Whiffin said.
Mr Nucara denies there was anything inappropriate in his dealings with Mr Chiodo and the relationship had been disclosed to Telstra and consultancy firm Charter Keck Cramer, which vets the agents used in the divestiture program.
"We had to pitch for the business and Charter Keck Cramer made the appointment. Everyone's aware that that relationship existed," he said
"It's not something that was hidden or underhanded in any way, which is what you are alluding to," Mr Nucara said.
Telstra has declined to confirm Mr Nucara's claims. Charter Keck Cramer has refused to comment without the permission of Telstra.
Mr Chiodo did not respond to a request for comment.