Rinehart takes biggest shareholding in Fairfax
Media mogul: Gina Rinehart. Photo: Jim Rice
GINA Rinehart last night joined the ranks of Australia's media barons after becoming the biggest shareholder in Fairfax Media.
Mrs Rinehart, Australia's richest person thanks to her iron ore fortune in the Pilbara, has secured a 12.6 per cent stake in Fairfax after a mid-week raid on the stock.
A statement to the Australian Securities Exchange confirmed the figure only included share purchases through to February 1. It is believed purchases since then could bring Mrs Rinehart's stake to as much as 14 per cent. Her private company, Hancock Prospecting, also owns a 10 per cent stake in the Ten Network.
Mrs Rinehart has an estimated $18.5 billion fortune. She is expected to join the board of Fairfax, owner of the The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, radio station 3AW and this website.
Ten Network chairman Brian Long has rejected suggestions she interferes in editorial content or programming decisions at the broadcaster. Mr Long yesterday moved to quash reports that recent media purchases made by Mrs Rinehart in Ten and Fairfax Media were motivated by a desire to gain editorial influence.
Mr Long said: ''Much of the comment is about the presumed motivation of Gina influencing the editorial content at Fairfax … What worries me is almost every article makes the implied or explicit suggestion that her investment in Ten was motived by the same thing, to influence editorial content to suit her needs.
''I want to make it clear that in all the time I have been chairman … neither she or any other board member has sought to influence programming or editorial.''
Mr Long said no discussion of the proposed mining resources rent tax - of which Mrs Rinehart has been a vocal opponent - had ever taken place at board level at Ten. He also said Mrs Rinehart had played no role in the hiring of conservative newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt.
''Andrew was on our payroll prior to Mrs Rinehart joining the board. The news and editorial teams were the ones who framed Andrew into the Sunday show.''
Mr Long has been chairman of the Ten Network since December 2010, the same time that James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch, Mrs Rinehart and Paul Mallam joined the board.
Mr Mallam is the nominee of billionaire media baron Bruce Gordon, who controls the WIN television network.
Mr Long also has a long association with the Packer family, having worked as an auditor for the PBL group and advised the late Kerry Packer on a number of deals.
''I have a long history working in the media … and I can only recall one incident when a proprietor interfered directly in programming,'' Mr Long said.
''That's when Kerry rang Nine and had Doug Mulray's show pulled off air midstream. I have no doubt that's true. He would have done it because he found the show offensive. But on news, on current affairs, editorially, I have never seen a thing happen like that.''
The show was Australia's Naughtiest Home Videos, which lasted half an episode in 1992.
Mr Long said that despite her mining background, Mrs Rinehart was an ''experienced'' addition to the Ten board.
''When Gina was elected by shareholders she stood up and explained what she had to bring to the boardroom table …
''She brings … the benefit of her experience and her strategic thinking. We don't look for a board to be a group of people to have identical experience … We want broad experience and debate. She brings that.''