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  • Jun, 2012

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    With “White Knights” Like This, Who Needs Enemies? Show Gina The Door.

    The “I, Gina” show kicked into high gear last night. Now, her lordship is threatening–oh, please, wait while we cower–to walk away from Fairfax if she doesn’t get her way. It may be raining on some but Fairfax should see this as the sun shining through and bid her goodbye–and, if possible, add a swift kick in the backside on the way out.

    The day dawns and bring us this news:

    GINA RINEHART hopes to be a ”white knight” for Fairfax Media, but might sell her shareholding unless she is offered positions on the board without ”unsuitable conditions”.

    The mining entrepreneur told the ABC’s Four Corners program, via her company Hancock Prospecting (HPPL), that she would be prepared to sell the 18.6 per cent chunk of the company’s stock that she holds and consider investing again if her demands were later met.

    ”Fairfax’s largest three mastheads [including the Herald] have been declining in circulation for five years, a long time,” Hancock Prospecting said. ”Fairfax’s share price has also declined … approximately 90 per cent.

    ”HPPL had hoped that Mrs Rinehart may be viewed by the board as a successful business person and a necessary ‘white knight’ with mutual interest in a sustainable Fairfax, however unless director positions are offered without unsuitable conditions, Mrs Rinehart is unable to assist Fairfax at this time,” the statement said. ”HPPL may hence sell its interest, and may consider repurchasing at some other time.” [emphasis added]

    There is so much wrong with this story it’s hard to decide where to begin. First, can someone please point out, in the story, that a “white knight” does not include arriving on the scene and, as a first act, commence to soil  (this may still be a “family site” so just trying to be somewhat restrained) a fundamental principle of the business, in this case, editorial independence. Indeed, the Fairfax board is showing, so far, a modicum of spine on that principle, which, not withstanding the awful unconscionable cuts ordered even though the CEO and top management is not taking a hit, one has to give those folks credit for:

    The Fairfax board has been resisting her push, and insisting she abides by the company’s Charter of Editorial Independence, which states that board members do not interfere with the content of the newspapers. Mrs Rinehart, reportedly, will not agree to that charter.

    This being a family site, let us just say, mildly, Gina, go fuck yourself. There are some things that very rich people do not understand and that is principle. Principles that are stronger than (a) the whims of a rich person and (b) principles that are more important to society than the needs and ego of one person.

    The Fairfax board should go further than simply resisting. End the charade. Tell the “I, Gina” show it’s not welcome in this town.


  • Jun, 2012

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    They Slashed Their Own Pay, Too, Didn’t They? NOT!!!

    You know how it goes–a company is in financial trouble, it slashes jobs to save money and, of course, the CEOs take a hit along with the regular workers. Slap, slap, slap–wake up! You’re not in Alice-in-Wonderland world. You’re in the real world, the wondrous “free market” where CEO salaries never go down, no matter how bad they screw up. Which brings us to the saga of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.

    The Herald’s management announced it was going to sack–we prefer not using the Orwellian word “redundant”, since it has a way of making the whole thing sound so neutral and mild–1,900 people, for an alleged savings, along with other measures (principally, making people pay for access to the website) of $235 million by 2015. But, not a problem for chief executive Greg Hywood, who is not taking a financial hit and is doing quite well, thank you very much:

    Mr McCarthy’s replacement, Greg Hywood, got $1.5 million for his six months in the job last financial year, while he is now eligible for a bonus of 150 per cent of his $1.6 million base salary.

    Not to mention the deep pockets of one mining billionaire named Gina who is determined, we think, to wake up one shining day to be greeted with the banner headline “Sydney Mining Herald.”

    Not to be outdone in the shameless category, The Australian is going to slash 70 percent of its divisions–but somehow the Rupe found $2 billion to double his takes in Foxtel. But, have we heard of any cuts at all in Rupe’s pay ($33 million USD in 2011) or any of his other top underlings. We find out a little more of the life the Rupe leads, while he’s cutting the pay of others, from this wet-kiss profile of Wendi Deng (Murdoch) in The New York Times:

    She used to wash her clothes and face with the same soap, said a 2008 Vogue article, and seldom wore makeup, much less luxuriated in the perks of privilege — like the private yoga classes with her friends Kathy Freston and Arianna Huffington — she indulges in today. At Yale, she would stake out Filene’s Basement to procure designer gowns on the cheap. Today, she is regularly photographed wearing Rodarte and Prada.

    Mrs. Murdoch quickly and giddily embraced the trappings of great wealth. While her husband conducted business in various European capitals, she would travel with him and shop for glassware and cutlery and curtains to stock her new homes. In addition to their loft in SoHo, the Murdochs transformed an old hutong in Beijing into a courtyard oasis decorated with art by Chinese artists.

    So, there it is: cuts are paid because of “changing conditions” or “new markets” or “new realities” but the story remains the same. The rich rob the workers who create the wealth–and, when things get rocky, the only people taking it in the chin are the very people who had nothing to do with creating the mess.

    –Jonathan Tasini