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Buddy system a matter of trust

Let's hope the KPI's and return-on-investment targets in the merger between Winston Sammut's Maxim Asset Management and Sydney Swans director Greg Paramor's Folkestone Group are better than those being generated by the Swans' $10 million man, Lance ''Buddy'' Franklin. Having run Maxim for the past decade, Sammut has taken up the offer to move in with Folkestone to operate an independent listed trust, and work with Paramor's high-end clients. The merger will give the old mates more time to debate the hard issues, like whether Buddy should play full-forward, half-back, or bench warmer given his form.

Sailing into a wall

It seems neither pollies nor the High Court could help Queensland businessman Alan Thiess recover the half a million dollars that he mistakenly paid on his gin palace, SoulSeeker.

A High Court decision handed down on Wednesday dismissed his appeal and ruled that legislation barred any recovery action outside of a six month window. Thiess, heir to the construction fortune built by Sir Lesley Thiess, signed on the dotted line for SoulSeeker on March 31, 2004.

When it came to paying duty on the £4.25 million pound vessel his agents missed the fact that SoulSeeker was exempt because it tipped the scales at more than 150 tonnes.

He became aware of this fact when he tried to sell SoulSeeker in October 2006. The following month the department of finance and administration turned down his application for an ‘‘act of grace’’ to allow the late recovery of his erroneous payment.

Thiess was not about to let that rest. His appellant’s chronology filed with the court details a four year trek through the halls of parliament house in Canberra seeking a political ‘‘act of grace’’ where the bureaucratic one failed.


A laundry list of MPs were lobbied. This includes current Attorney-General George Brandis, MP Bernie Ripoll - and following Kevin Rudd’s election win -- the newly appointed treasurer Wayne Swan.

In October 2010 the political route appears to have failed with the final port of call being then finance minister Penny Wong. Legal avenues began in earnest in December 2010 and reached its own terminus on Wednesday.

But Walsh Halligan Douglas lawyer Spencer Slasberg, who represented Thiess told CBD that they are ‘‘looking at more novel avenues’’ for redress without offering further detail.

‘‘We’re not completely done yet,’’ he says.

QBE's brave face

With Maurice Blackburn canvassing QBE investors over a potential class action on Wednesday, new chairman Marty Becker was playing it safe when he fronted his first AGM for the insurer.

''We thank you for your continued support in what is a challenging but also an exciting time for QBE,'' he told shareholders in Sydney.

Becker even offered a positive spin on the savage profit downgrade and share plunge that has led to interest from litigation funders. ''The last few years have represented a pause in QBE's extraordinary success story while we reset our baseline for continued growth.''

Pity investors did not know the company was ''resetting its baseline'' before they took a bath last December.

Maurice Blackburn's Jacob Varghese argues investors paid too much for their shares prior to the December write-downs. QBE boss John Neal says the company would fight the class action if it goes ahead.

While the remuneration report did not receive a significant protest vote at the AGM, the election of busy Hong Kong-based board member Margaret Leung did.

Leung raised concerns due to the fact that she now spreads her expertise across seven company boards.

Despite the impassioned plea from QBE that last month ''Hong Kong boards do not require as much time as an Australian board'', more than 30 per cent of votes were cast against her election.

Clive's late News

The start of 50th anniversary celebrations for News Corp's taxpayer-funded broadsheet The Australian got off to a bumpy start on Wednesday with Clive Palmer tweeting ''The @australian turns 50 but the sooner @rupertmurdoch loss making rag closes the better 4 Oz journalism''.

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