Monthly Archives: June 2012

Gina, Please Go Away And Leave Our SMH Alone

More On That Gina Rinehart Fairfax Fiasco

This business of Gina Rinehart trying to get seats on the board of Fairfax Media is getting very strained.

Mrs Rinehart said Fairfax’s performance over the past five years had been ”distressing” for shareholders. To Mr Corbett she wrote that the milestone share price would represent ”only a 50 per cent loss” since he became chairman in October 2009.

”And if the five-year decline in paid circulation and in revenue of the Fairfax mastheads do not reverse prior to the 2012 AGM, we ask that you tender your resignation at that meeting.”

This is a really interesting construction by Ms. Rinehart, not only of the company, but her own company Hancock Prospecting. First of all, no company operates in a vacuum. The general business climate in the last 5 years has been anything but smooth sailing. The technological changes as well as demographic and consumption habit changes have put all media companies on the back foot. This applies equally to Hollywood Studios to free to air TV services to newspapers and magazines to (most notably) record companies. I’m no expert on media company share prices, but the vast majority of them have been taking a bollocking.

On the other hand, Ms Rinehart’s stupendous wealth from mining has also been a function of the times as resource demand has  exploded in Asia, and her firm is essentially feeding that demand at ever increasing rates. She is not alone in this sudden rise to super-wealth. There are others in the same category, notably Andrew Twiggy Forrest and Clive Palmer, who also share Ms Rinehart’s desire to privatise our democracy – to own and fuck over like some toy poodle or a sex slave. However, the most salient point to make is that the fall in share price of Fairfax and the rise in wealth of Ms Rinehart are both more to do with sign of the times than anybody’s individual talent or skills.

So, if Mr. Corbett were to be held to account for falling performances on the terms Ms. Rinehart is framing it, it would in no way actually reflect Mr. Corbett’s talents at the helm of the company. And I say this with the utmost of agnosticism about the efficacy of talent in top managerial positions in such firms. Equally, if Ms. Rinehart thinks these kinds of benchmarks are what should be used to measure the performance of the Chairman of the Board at Fairfax, then it suggests she has no idea of what it is, in which she has bought a 19% stake.

There was an experiment done in psychology where they got a bunch of students to play ‘Monopoly’. A portion of the students were given a substantial cash stake advantage, which they used to win. Afterwards they interviewed these winners, and not one of them put it down to the financial advantage with which they entered the game. They all claimed they won on the back of their nous and skill. And this is essentially what we have with Gina Rinehart – somebody who was given a dirty big endowment at the beginning, who thinks that somehow she’s risen to her position through talent and hard work, and that these are the things that matter. Worse still, she is using this misguided view of herself and the world to bludgeon her way in to the boardroom of Fairfax Media.

And all of this is even before she tries to mount her idiotic agenda of having an Andrew Bolt be her mouthpiece, and try to persuade us that findings in Climate Science are somehow inaccurate and wrong and cannot be relied upon.

I am led to think of Bill Gates who equally amassed a fortune on the tide of his times, and in that process garnered much vitriol and opprobrium. Some of them were funny and cruel, like the one in the South Park movie ‘Bigger Longer and Uncut’ where he is brutally executed by an US Army general because Microsoft Windows does not work as advertised. He even had a reputation as a petulant, vindictive, childish nerd of a CEO who worked hard to stake out a near-monopoly (there’s that word again) position in a particular market. And even he didn’t resort to try and buy the New York Times to change the perception of him or the world. So when you have such a basis of comparison, it seems pretty obvious just how odious an attempt Ms. Gina Rinehart is making, to poison the press in this country.

If she really wants credibility as an owner that leads to any seats on the board, the very least she can do is sign the Charter of Editorial Independence. It all starts with that commitment. While she cannot bring herself to do it, then we cannot but help conclude what she wants to do is manipulate the press to suit her own little agenda.

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