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The Sydney Morning Herald

Telstra now on to its second pick

Author: Christine Lacy
Date: 01/06/2005
Words: 922
Source: SMH
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Business
Page: 29
Christine Lacy opens the pods and has a dekko at the peas.

The silence from the boardroom is deafening.

But the market can sure hear the clock ticking in the top office at Telstra as boss Ziggy Switkowski packs his boxes before his last day at the end of this month.

It's believed several board meetings have been held in the past fortnight, ostensibly to nut out Telstra's fresh financial year blueprint, but at which the search for a successor was considered.

Word is that at one of those meetings the board agreed to an "heir and a spare" for the top job. That is, a preferred candidate and a second best with whom chairman Don McGauchie and his recruitment committee were empowered to negotiate.

But with less than four weeks to go and still no announcement on a new boss, it seems the number one pick to run Australia's largest company - rumoured to be AT&T's Bill Hannigan - has not been able to reach agreement on terms and conditions.

"Dropped off the twig," was how one source close to the process described it yesterday.

That's seen attention now turn to the "spare" candidate, plus to the very real possibility that an interim boss will be appointed.

Solomon Trujillo, boss of US West and Orange Europe, is another name mentioned.

Finer points

Picture this.

An American finance man, resident in Melbourne, seated at one of Sydney's best French restaurants, captivated by intimate dissection of the rugby league State of Origin - from the Blues' perspective at least.

Imported boss of GE Money in Australia and New Zealand, Thomas C Gentile III, got his introduction to business, Wizard-style, yesterday as his new salary man Mark Bouris hosted a small get-together for the NSW team.

Where else would you expect to find this state's best players but at Opera House noshery Guillaume at Bennelong, with reputed Easts fan Guillaume Brahimi rattling the pans.

Turns out the players looked more like bankers than even Gentile in their standard issue pin-striped suits, white shirts and ties. Not even the uber fashionable Bouris, in a black suit and shirt, bothered with neckwear.

Ahead of game two in Sydney in a fortnight, there was something for everyone in fired-up Blues coach Ricky Stuart's lesson on loyalty.

It's a virtue that Bouris, for one, knows a little about, showing where his loyalties lie by accepting what's believed to be full consideration for the sale of Wizard in GE shares.

Peace, love, and litigation

No one was more surprised than building sub-contractor Mike Vadasz to read in Saturday's Herald that Multiplex would never instigate litigation, preferring to settle differences out of court.

Vadasz is suing Multiplex over work his firm Australasian Piling Company did on the Gold Coast Convention Centre.

Vadasz received a letter from Multiplex's legal beagles at Phillips Fox this month which left him with the impression that its aim was quite the opposite of settlement.

It asked him to fork out $180,000 in security of costs because it was concerned about his "ability to meet any costs order that may be made in our client's favour". It was also concerned about the amount of litigation Vadasz has been involved in and, it says, is still involved in around the country.

Vadasz laments the changes in Multiplex since the group floated a couple of years back.

"They were terrific to work for a few years ago - good, tough construction people," says Vadasz, who had worked for Multiplex to their mutual satisfaction on the Perth Convention Centre.

Denby goes as well

Meanwhile, the departure of construction division head Noel Henderson from the board - but not the business - had a consequence unadvertised by Multiplex.

Henderson's resignation at last Thursday's marathon board meeting also deprived John Roberts's youngest child, his daughter Denby McGregor. As an alternate director to Henderson, she now finds herself without a seat at the table.

BHP's 11-day tour

BHP Billiton will be hoping that eleven days holding the analyst community captive will be sufficient to convince them to coax any reluctant clients with WMC Resources shares to let them go.

Yesterday, the miner's heavy-hitters kicked off their take-no-prisoners tour of domestic operations with fun and games in the Harbour City.

Lulling the analytical types into a false sense of leisure ahead of the trip's relentless schedule, chief number cruncher Chris Lynch and head of carbon steel materials Bob Kirkby hosted a morning game of golf.

Those with loftier ambitions tackled the harbour bridge climb, with BHP's commercial chief Marius Kloppers.

Then the stragglers who'd spent the morning in the office were gathered up for a lunchtime harbour cruise.

It would then have to have been early to bed, with vice presidential tour host Mark Lidiard requesting the group meet at Sydney airport this morning at 5.15am. First stop, Biloela.

Self-styled

Seems it's taken the collapse of HIH to shed some light on the black box that is management consulting.

Yesterday a Sydney Court tried to pin a label on Boston Consulting Group over what they did for the insurer in the weeks before its collapse in March 2001.

Trying to lock down Boston's role, silk Bret Walker asked former HIH number cruncher Bill Howard whether "experts in everything" was an apt label.

Howard, in the box amid deputy HIH director Charles Abbott's committal hearing on a charge of dishonesty, didn't miss a beat, simply responding: "They presented that way".

 
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