THE company directors' union has appointed a new top shop steward, James Strong - a man who knows how to keep his politburo in line.
Following an annual meeting held at an undisclosed location, the Australian Institute of Company Directors announced the veteran company director had been appointed chairman.
It's a position Strong knows well: in addition to his various ordinary board seats, he sits in the big chair at Woolworths and troubled retailer Kathmandu, and was formerly chairman of Rip Curl and IAG. And it was at IAG, in 2001, that Strong developed a unique technique to control troublesome directors - one that raised eyebrows at the AICD at the time.
Strong asked the rest of the board to sign undated resignation letters, which he duly collected but apparently never used.
In 2006, when news of the letters broke, then-AICD CEO Ralph Evans described the move as highly unusual. ''All the codes of corporate governance stress the independence of directors,'' he said.
AICD spokesman Steve Burrell told CBD the organisation's position had not shifted ''too much'' since then. ''It was an unusual measure for an unusual and unstable situation,'' he said.
At the time, IAG, formerly NRMA Insurance Group, was a somewhat turbulent beast.
''I don't think it's a situation where he and we dramatically differ on what's good practice,'' Burrell said. ''It's not illegal but it's not common practice.''
Horses for courses
RETAILER Harvey Norman had a shocking Cup day hangover, with the morning after revealing a 20 per cent slump in sales, and it looks like part of Gerry Harvey's horse racing empire is also delivering little joy to the septuagenarian rich-lister.
Harvey owns 19 of 50 shares in a managed investment scheme called the Bel Danoro (Aus) Stallion Syndicate, the principal aim of which was standing at stud stallion Bel Danoro.
CBD says ''was'' because the syndicate made a $52,684 loss in 2010-11 and in late June this year its members moved to wind it up.
Back in 2005, trainer Lee Freedman touted the horse, which was also part-owned by Harvey, as having ''a big future'' after it won a race on Cup day as a three-year-old.
After going around for several years, Bel Danoro ended up at Harvey's Vinery Stud in 2007.
However, demand for his seed clearly slowed to a trickle in the 2010-11 year, with the thoroughbred generating just $1250 in revenue.
Auditors raised going concern issues, pointing out that liabilities exceeded assets by $60,348.
''The solvency of the Bel Danoro (Aus) Stallion Syndicate is maintained by members making capital contributions to meet the ongoing operating costs,'' UHY Haines Norton said.
The accounts show Harvey wore most of the year's costs, pumping in $32,167.
As for Bel Danoro, CBD has no idea what has happened to him and couldn't reach Harvey to ask.
The stallion is no longer featured on the Vinery website.
He may be gambolling happily somewhere. Or the solvency concerns may have turned him into solvent after a trip, via the knackery, to the glue factory.
EVENTS yesterday confirm that Qantas information commissar Olivia Wirth's insistence that her burgeoning relationship with Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes won't affect dealings between airline and union is considerably more substantial than an Airbus contrail.
Demonstrating a distinct lack of favouritism, her employer delivered a kick to the guts of his union yesterday when it axed 500 engineers, many of them AWU members. Howes didn't front the media, leaving the job of producing jet engine-pitched howls of outrage to AWU Victorian secretary Cesar Melhem.
So Howes much is that relationship Wirth? Not a single job, it seems.
Fun with coal
WILL the real Martin Ferguson please stand up, please stand up, please stand up?
The marble-mouthed minister for energy was launching the extremely serious energy white paper in East Melbourne yesterday when his fascinating speech was interrupted by a pair of protesters, one wearing a Martin mask.
The fake Ferguson - or was it the real one? - pranced about the stage, singing a sarcastic song praising the virtues of coal as an energy source. Clearly unimpressed, the real Ferguson - or was it the fake one? - stood by the side of the stage until the pair, from activist group Quit Coal, were escorted from the room.
A forest saved
THE paper chase is alive and well at the corporate watchdog, which reduced its consumption of paper from 18 reams a person to a mere 14 reams a person in the financial year just gone.
On CBD's shonky calculator, that means the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's 1738 employees used about 12.1 million pieces of paper.
Assuming they take four weeks' holidays, that's an average of 29 pages a day.
According to its annual report, ASIC has reduced its paper use ''through the implementation and increased uptake of its Electronic Content Management record-keeping system'', which means more looking at documents on screen and less printing them out.
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