Try not to let the fat cat out of the bag

The more disclosure we have on executive salaries, the more they are only set to escalate. That was the warning from the recently departed Business Council of Australia (aka CEOs Union) president Graham Bradley yesterday at an Australian British Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney.

The more disclosure we have on executive salaries, the more they are only set to escalate. That was the warning from the recently departed Business Council of Australia (aka CEOs Union) president Graham Bradley yesterday at an Australian British Chamber of Commerce lunch in Sydney.

"The inflation of executive salaries has got to do with the fact that everybody has got that information. That reduces the leverage of boards," lamented Bradley in a panel discussion at the lunch with QBE chair Belinda Hutchinson and ASX chairman David Gonski.

"I think it has caused inflation," Bradley said, who has been powerless to stop even his own annual remuneration as the chairman of Stockland jumping from $325,000 to $500,000 since late 2005.

"It's much more difficult than when we had a simpler and much lower level of disclosure," concurred Hutchinson, who saw her fees at QBE double last financial year when she became chair.


ASX chairman David Gonski, in the same panel discussion, was philosophical when asked about federal Treasurer Wayne Swan's scuttling of the friendly Singaporean takeover bid for the exchange earlier this year.

"I was disappointed but life goes on," Gonski said. However, Gonski said he just could not get his head around why people were against foreigners buying land.

"I can't see them taking the land away," Gonski said.

"I mean I can understand them buying something here [and packing] it away. If they want to buy the Harbour Bridge, they pack it away, that's fine. I personally would find it inconvenient." Gonski also has no problem with a foreigner buying out Justin Hemmes's Ivy drinking hole near Wynyard, where yesterday's lunch was held.

"If they buy, for example, this building, I just can't see the damage that it does."

Gonski also offered an olive branch to the Occupy protest movement - which has a strong base at the University of NSW, which Gonski is chancellor of. "I think we all need to start building bridges," he said.

Australian British Chamber of Commerce chairman David Slessar failed in his mission to turn yesterday's panel discussion into a Gillard Government bashing session.

"We are arguably run by a government unduly run by the unions," he said at the start of the function.


Former Sydney Futures Exchange local member Joe Cross could soon become better known in Australia for his juicing techniques, when a documentary on his dramatic weight-loss program and road trip across America has its red carpet premiere at the Dendy Cinema on Monday night.

After already screening across to the US to reasonably positive reviews, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead documents Cross's mission to slim his 140-kilogram frame (and large beer gut) by embarking on a 60-day fruit and vegetable juice fast. At the start of the film, Cross says that it looks as if he "has swallowed a sheep".

Described in a New York Times review as being "shaped like Michael Moore and thinking like Morgan Spurlock", the former Manly-Warringah Leagues Club president and close buddy to Lachlan Murdoch has claimed to have already inspired 150,000 Americans to follow his lead.

Even if you do not see the Cross-produced film, it might be hard to avoid the businessman. He has already signed a deal to distribute the DVDs of the film in Woolworths supermarkets and is already promoting Breville juicers in the US. Cross has also used the film to promote his Reboot Your Life movement, which offers help to people wanting to break their unhealthy eating habits.


If the new chief executive of Woolworths, Grant O'Brien, has never had a nickname, he now has, "The Penguin". Woolies chairman James Strong told shareholders at the retailer's annual meeting that O'Brien was from the Tasmanian town of Penguin.

Strong said he hoped to hop on his motorbike one day and make it to the town, which has its own Big Penguin attraction.

It is two years since former Woolworths chief executive Michael Luscombe - who did not attend yesterday's meeting - revealed that his wife nicknamed him "Mr Deck" after the wobbly deck he once built.


Capital raisings and takeovers are pretty thin on the ground right now. Apart from BlueScope's desperate lunge for extra cash this week, it's difficult to think of anyone raising cash in this environment.

But a Bananaland tiddler, Site Group International, is raising $4.2 million to fund a few takeovers.

Backed by the estate of the late Ken Talbot, Site provides vocational training for the construction and mining industries to help alleviate the skills shortages.

Talbot, the Macarthur Coal founder who perished in an aircraft crash in West Africa, was good mates with Site's chairman Vernon Wills.

Wills reckons the new funds will be used for a "combination of organic expansion as well as growth via acquisition".


Goodman Fielder's still relatively fresh chief executive, Chris Delaney, has a novel approach on what constitutes freshness.

At yesterday's annual meeting, Delaney sought to allay concerns that the breadmaker could soon be making fewer deliveries. He conceded that Goodman had been discussing how it could "create a better product for the consumer which could include some changes to the shelf life".

"But at the end of the day we will never ever sacrifice the quality of the product, the freshness of the product. The brand is too important."

It is good to see that the "freshness" of Goodman's product will never be compromised - even if it stays on the supermarket shelves a few days longer.


The American-born bank executive who was overlooked as a replacement to outgoing ANZ chief executive John McFarlane in 2007, Brian Hartzer, has made a triumphant return to Australia after being named as the head of Westpac's retail banking division.

Hartzer is now seen as the most likely successor to THE Westpac chief executive, Gail Kelly.

For the past two years, Hartzer has been running the Royal Bank of Scotland's retail operations over in the UK.

Despite surviving the financial crisis in Europe, Hartzer is not unscathed. A cycling mishap last year saw Hartzer break his ankle in three places. He told the Daily Mail newspaper that he was "part-bionic" due to all the metal parts holding his ankle together.

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