One-Told? Can’t Recall!

Justice Robert Austin’s 3,000 page legal judgement of Jodee Rich’s role in the One-Tel telephony company failure incidentally offers fascinating insights into the workings of  Australia’s finest business minds and commercial strategies.

Rich’s actions as a company director have been exonerated, but others with names like Murdoch and Packer are still to face the liquidator’s more focussed legal challenge to their liability in withdrawing promised funds from the struggling start-up back in 2001.

The rather grotesque spectacle of Packer & Fils getting into a stoush at the time, tears and all, and old Cranbookian boys in business falling out as it all went pear-shaped, were high grade tabloid. With all that disloyalty and charged emotional catharsis going on at the time it’s no wonder that one would want to put the painful One-Tel memories all behind one.

His Honour was so impressed by the power of the mind to block them out that he actually counted the memory lapses of his star mogul witnesses during their evidence in the case brought by ASIC. Under questioning Junior Packer had a faulty memory (can’t recall, etc.) on 1,951 occasions over 9 days, and Junior Murdoch came way behind with a paltry 881 lapses.

Admittedly the painful events occurred a few years ago, but it’s doubtful that Kerry or Rupert would have suffered the same forgetfulness. Maybe the genes are weakening over the generations. As for the business acumen displayed in the One-Tel dealings, suffice to say that clear judgement & good timing went missing in action, in a cloud of fraternal hubris.

The Can’t Recall record of celebrity witnesses is long and distinguished, with stand-outs like Alan Bond, but its latest notable addition, ‘Labor Identity’ Graham Richardson, has refined the standard with new logic. In a recent NSW Government Upper House enquiry into the so-called McGurk Affair, his memory was quite faulty about meetings with government planning officials and so on, but he had no records or diary of events, as he keeps everything in his head!

3 Comments

  1. Chapter Four of Justice Austin’s 3,000 page judgment gives some good insight into the memory lapses of One.Tel non-executive directors Packer Jnr and Murdoch Jnr.

    Packer Jnr took a greater interest in One.Tel than Murdoch Jnr and therefore notched up more lapses.

    As Chairman & CEO of News Ltd and Senior VP of News Corp, Murdoch Jnr had a full agenda. Joint One.Tel CEO Jodee Rich resorted to communicating with Murdoch Jnr through Packer Jnr.

    Packer Jnr’s “hard drive” was also under strain with his positions of Chairman of PBL, Joint CEO of CPH and a list of directorships of related companies.

    Packer Snr though found the time to watch over his Jnr and, it is evident in the Austin judgment that Packer Jnr deferred to Packer Snr on most decisions and clearly Packer Snr regarded One.Tel as toxic. No doubt he blanked out much of Packer Jnr’s memory with some verbal abuse.

    Plenty more to discuss on the One.Tel topic particularly in light of Justice Austin’s belief that if PBL and News Ltd had maintained their support for the company and implemented the plan to underwrite a rights issue to raise $132M, One.Tel may still be listed today. What does ASIC now have up its sleeve?

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