, This was published 6 months ago
Angus Taylor.Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding
Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s long — and sometimes politically painful — association with the rural industry has come to an end. The Liberal MP has sold his holdings in Growth Farms Australia, the $400 million agricultural fund manager he founded with his brother Richard more than two decades ago.
Growth Farms, for the record, is in the business of managing some of the country’s largest agricultural concerns and is backed by British hedge fund billionaire Sir Michael Hintze. The outfit is now chaired by former Mercer chief Stephen Roberts. Taylor’s holdings were owned by his family’s Gufee investment vehicle.
Taylor’s agricultural interests have for some years been under particular scrutiny after the Commonwealth forked out some $80 million to buy water rights held by Eastern Australia Agriculture, another company associated with Taylor (though that relationship ended long before the deal was struck).
In more recent years, Growth Farms Australia has been managing two sprawling Queensland stations — Clyde and Kia Ora — as well as Sir Michael’s recently acquired Cheviot Hills sheep farm in regional Victoria. Last year the fund forked out $25 million to buy Seven billionaire Kerry Stokes’ Cygnet Park on Kangaroo Island.
Whether Taylor is the only existing shareholder out of the business remains to be seen. Sources told this column an unnamed overseas investor had made an offer to take out the entire business.
FRIENDS INDEEDThe federal government’s decision to allow early access to superannuation savings has seriously reignited the culture wars between the industry’s boosters and their critics.
And there’s little chance of these arguments subsiding any time soon, with Liberal senator Andrew Bragg set to release a new book, Bad Egg: How to Fix Super, next month. Contained in that book is detailed new polling on what the public thinks and knows about the super system. Now, according to disclosures made by Bragg, we know who has paid for that research, the cost of which ran into the thousands of dollars. It’s four of Bragg’s wealthy patrons, including Greg Shand, whose Barana Capital outfit owns some $450 million in property across the city.
Also sponsoring the research, we note, is Jeremy Dunkel. He’s on the board of the Malcolm Turnbull-founded fund manager Pengana Capital. Dunkel and Shand are joined by venture capitalist Jono Herrman and a business associated with Clime Investment Management stock-picker Ronni Chalmers.
KORDA CALLINGIt seems almost everyone involved in Virgin Australia’s administration process expect insolvency experts KordaMentha to come barrelling into the imbroglio at any moment.
Virgin Australia already has an administrator: Deloitte’s Vaughan Strawbridge. But the outfit founded by Mark Korda and Mark Mentha is nothing but aggressive when they suspect there’s money to be made. Already those close to the administration are blaming KordaMentha for starting a rumour Deloitte has a conflict of interest after being appointed by Virgin on April 5 to prepare the company for a possible administration.
Since then, they have been in talks with interested parties from private equity outfit BGH Capital to vulture fund Oaktree Capital about the future of the airlines.
KordaMentha, meanwhile, is very good at making a motza. During the Arrium administration, it was pulling in almost $1 million in fees – per week. In the first year of Ansett’s administration, fees were more than $30 million. After a decade working on that collapse, we can’t begin to imagine how much money was extracted.
Still, it will be a difficult task to manage the politics of the Virgin collapse. For a start, any prospective buyer will have to get the Transport Workers Union onside. So how about BGH’s Ben Gray, whose father is an ex-Tasmanian Liberal premier? Robin Gray, it turns out, went OK with the unions.
Then there’s Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. His chief of staff, Damian Callachor, was senior in Qantas’ government relations team until recently. As for Virgin boss Paul Scurrah? His wife Nicole was chief-of-staff to former Queensland Labor premier Anna Bligh. As Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington gleefully pointed out last year, the Scurrah’s Whistler bolt-hole has hosted the state’s Labor treasurer Jackie Trad. All that shouldn’t matter in Virgin’s bid to stave off collapse. But we can only imagine it will.
FOOTNOTEDTurnbull’s memoir contains more than a few revelations, from Scott Morrison’s habit of leaking to the press to how his principal private secretary Sally Cray “helpfully and discreetly managed a rather awkward situation” that Cities Minister Alan Tudge had managed to get himself into.
But there is one last revelation tucked away, of all places, in the tome’s acknowledgements. The ex-PM is back in business with one of the originals at his Turnbull & Partners investment bank. “It’s wonderful to be working again with Nick van der Ploeg as I return to venture capital,” Turnbull wrote. Van der Ploeg, we have confirmed, has returned as Turnbull & Partners’ chief investment officer. He previously worked with Turnbull at Pengana.
Turnbull & Partners was co-founded by Turnbull and Nick Whitlam, son of former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam. Former directors have included convicted businessman Rodney Adler, Kerry Packer, former premier Neville Wran and Seven West executive Bruce McWilliam.
McWilliam, meanwhile, is one of a long list thanked by Turnbull in his memoir. He is mentioned alongside friends including property developer Theo Onisforou, Ariadne chairman Gary Weiss, Energy Security Board boss Kerry Schott, former Packer lieutenant Trevor Kennedy and Pengana chief Russell Pillemer.
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, http://www.smh.com.au/national/taylor-packs-up-his-swag-and-sells-the-farm-20200421-p54lwp.html, The Sydney Morning Herald