Illustration: John Shakespeare.
CROWN chairman James Packer is riding high these days, clogging up newspapers and racetracks with his grinning visage as he celebrates victory over rival Echo in the shape of a second Sydney casino.
However, there is one corner of the Packer empire that's doing it tough: his privately held rag trader Pretty Girl Fashion Group, which specialises in the kind of clothes unlikely to be worn by his ever-stylish wife, Erica.
Pretty Girl laid off about 20 management employees last week after running up losses for two years in a row.
It seems that the company's clutch of second-tier brands, including Rockmans, W.Lane (formerly Wombat, and aimed at financially secure baby boomers) and corporate wear line Table Eight, have been struggling to find traction in a fickle fashion market that is increasingly under pressure from foreign raiders including Zara, Uniqlo and Top Shop.
Pretty Girl dived from a profit of $12.9 million in the 12 months to June 30, 2010, to a loss of $3.8 million the following year, and although its financial report for 2012 is not yet available, director Mike Johnston said the company would record another loss.
''But I would be expecting to make a profit in the current year,'' he said.
Johnston said Pretty Girl had been putting more resources into visual merchandising and better products. ''Like a lot of retailers, it's a pretty tough market there, but we have seen strong single-digit sales growth since April this year,'' he said.
''Hopefully if the market picks up we stand to benefit.''
ANGRY shareholders in forestry group TFS Corporation are trying to bowl out international cricket star Adam Gilchrist.
The move to turf Gilchrist from the board of the company, which grows sandalwood trees, follows the resignation of former Liberal senator Richard Alston as chairman last month.
It seems that the Howard-era communications minister didn't tell the rest of the board of his intentions before giving up the $180,000-a-year gig.
Alston's resignation was ''disappointing and came as a surprise'', founder and major shareholder Frank Wilson told the company's annual meeting on Friday. Following Alston's departure Wilson became executive chairman.
''He did not provide any reason for his resignation,'' he said.
Gilchrist, who according to the company's website has been the ''global ambassador for TFS Corporation since June 2010'', is listed in its annual report as an independent director.
Wilson defended the board against allegations it lacked independence.
''Attacks on the company and its board undermine investor confidence and imperil the company's future revenue and earnings, and hence its capacity to pay dividends,'' Wilson said.
Waiting on Conroy
MEDIA moguls will be watching federal cabinet today on the chance Communications Minister Stephen Conroy will unveil his grand new plan for regulation of the fourth estate. Bolshie ALP backbenchers who have been calling for Rupert Murdoch to be curb-stomped look set to be disappointed, with Conroy believed to be unlikely to recommend a single regulator covering all of the media.
The one-ring-to-rule-them-all proposal sprang out of the media review conducted by former Federal Court judge Ray ''the Fink'' Finkelstein, who was tasked with looking into the newspaper business following revelations that Murdoch's British rags had engaged in widespread phone hacking.
Instead, Conroy is believed to want to beef up existing regulators - problematic, given The West Australian has fled from the industry-run Press Council - and, in a move that will please Murdoch's enemies, introduce a fit and proper person test.
Rollers for miners
THE much-ballyhooed end of the resources boom doesn't seem to be bothering super luxury car brand Rolls-Royce, which is pushing ahead with plans to expand into mining states Western Australia and Queensland.
That will give mining magnates the chance to join the luminous ranks of Rolls drivers, a roll of honour that includes the likes of, er, ''Vile'' Kyle Sandilands.
Rolls-Royce Asia Pacific regional director Paul Harris told CBD that negotiations were well advanced for a showroom in Perth, and the carmaker is also considering setting up shop in Brisbane or on the Gold Coast. It already has showrooms in Melbourne and Sydney.
He said Rolls-Royce was not worried about the end of the boom.
''The boom is just the cream on top of the cake, as far as we're concerned,'' he said.
''At the end of the day, booms are going to come and go.''
As to how many of the enormously expensive vehicles are actually sold in Australia, Harris would only say the number is in the ''double digits''.
Rolls-Royce last year sold just 3500 cars world-wide - a record.
''If you look at the global sales for cars in the world it's a tiny, tiny drop in the ocean,'' Harris said.
''We've never had lots of customers and we never will.''