Phillip Di Bella loses Telstra business award

Phillip Di Bella loses Telstra business award

Telstra is set to strip Brisbane coffee entrepreneur Phillip Di Bella of his 2014 Queensland Business of the Year award.

Telstra has stripped Brisbane coffee entrepreneur Phillip Di Bella of his 2014 Queensland Business of the Year award, saying his online comments were "completely inappropriate''.

Mr Di Bella was awarded the highly coveted prize last week, just two days before Fairfax Media revealed his series of offensive, expletive-laden social media posts aimed at State of Origin referees and commentators.

Brisbane coffee king Phil Di Bella.

Brisbane coffee king Phil Di Bella.

Photo: Glenn Hunt

On Wednesday morning, Telstra CEO David Thodey did what Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk have so far refused to do. He publicly condemned the comments and sought to distance himself from Mr Di Bella.

"Disappointing and inappropriate comments from Telstra Bus Award winner in Qld, not consistent with our values and we don't support," Mr Thodey posted on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

Late Wednesday, Telstra issued a statement confirming the decision to "withdraw'' the award bestowed on the coffee businessman.


“We are extremely disappointed by Mr Di Bella’s comments. They do not reflect Telstra’s values nor those of the Telstra Business Awards and were completely inappropriate,'' Telstra said in the statement.

“While we note that Mr Di Bella has apologised for the comments, we believe in creating and promoting a culture of inclusion and respect and we expect our award winners, as role models and leaders in the business community, to uphold these values.

“Regrettably, as a result we have spoken with Mr Di Bella and informed him of our decision to withdraw the award.''

His foul-mouthed State of Origin tirade was the latest in a long history of often unsavoury Twitter and Facebook postings he has made over a number of years, many of which could be deemed anti-gay.

Others have targeted welfare recipients and foreign aid.

His highly publicised tweets during last Wednesday's game came just hours after Cr Quirk announced he would take on the key advisory role of chairman of the new Brisbane CBD economic development board.

When Fairfax Media contacted Mr Di Bella for comment on Thursday following Opposition Leader Milton Dick's call for him to be dumped from the role, he spruiked the Telstra award as proving he was well-credentialled for the job.

“Look love, you can write whatever story you want because I’m happy for them to question it,” he said.

“Research my resume, I started Di Bella Coffee with $5000 and just won Telstra business of the year.

“If I’m not suitable for it, tell me who is.”

Cr Quirk also pointed to the award as proving his suitability for the economic advisory role.

Despite his social media comments, neither Cr Quirk or Mr Newman sought to distance themselves from the businessman on Friday.

The long-time LNP donor holds a number of influential advisory positions to both the State Government and Brisbane City Council.

In May 2013, he was appointed by Mr Newman to the Premier's Advisory Board.

It came the year after he was appointed a director of the government-run Queensland Tourism and Events, the marketing body designed to sell the Sunshine State to the world.

That year, 2012, Mr Di Bella donated more than $18,000 to the LNP.

At Brisbane City Council level, he is currently chairman of the Queen Street Mall advisory board, to which Mr Newman also appointed him when he was Brisbane's Lord Mayor.

He is also a director of Brisbane Marketing, a promotional entity designed to fuel economic growth and attract tourists to the river city.

This year, he was named the Lord Mayor's Corporate Citizen of the Year at the 2014 Australia Day awards.

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