Federal Politics

License article

Rinehart slice enough for a board seat, but will it do?

Gina Rinehart is a woman driven by power, not always conventionally rational in her pursuit of it, and seemingly never afraid to exercise it.

How else to explain a woman who, already Australia's richest person, thinks that going to court against her own children over the family estate - and corporately excommunicating one by removing her as a director - is the right approach?

She favours the courts for family brawls, having taken on her late father Lang Hancock's last wife, Rose Porteous, as well as the children of his prospecting partner.

Is that the same person who was canny enough last year to fly herself and politicians to the wedding in an Indian industrialist's family as part of a strategy to secure a multibillion-dollar resources deal? Who frocked up in girlish fashion for a tea party to meet the Queen and Prince Philip, or 18 months ago protested in Perth's streets against the mining tax?

On the available details, last night's ''raid'' on the share register of Fairfax Media (owner of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald), demonstrates compulsive more than considered behaviour.

After all, there was almost 10per cent of Fairfax available in November when the Fairfax family quit their remaining stake at 85 cents a share, although there were strong indications back then that the Fairfaxes had instructed the brokers that their shares were not to go to a potential predator.


Still, there are ways, and ways, in the financial world. Yesterday's offer through brokers Morgan Stanley was pitched at a 10 per cent premium to the 74 cents a share closing price - or 81.7 cents a share.

So for something like an extra $10 million back in November, Rinehart could probably already own the shares. That is petty cash in her world. Even stranger, the price offered was less than what many of the conventional fund managers, such as Orbis, have recently been prepared to pay for Fairfax shares that they thought were undervalued (and still do).

The firm offer will, though, winkle out the many hedge funds that have been short-selling the shares, convinced that there is more blood to flow from a media group making the transition to a digital future, and trying to take its advertising clients with it.

Rinehart, who already had a little over 4 per cent of Fairfax, has apparently acquired at least another 5 per cent. She may not get 15 per cent, but she has enough to argue for a board seat.

Whether that buys her anywhere near the influence on Australia's east coast that she has as the biggest fish in Western Australia's pond, remains to be tested.