The 35th America’s Cup has only just finished in Bermuda — with the Kiwis’ Emirates Team NZ thrashing Larry Ellison’s Team

Sunday, 03 September 2017

Oracle USA — but already corporate scheming has begun on who’ll be racing in Auckland when the cup is held on the winner’s home seas in four years.

Gossip from the recent Hamilton Island Race week regatta was that a consortium of wealthy Australian businessmen — and keen yachties — might already be quietly discussing mounting a joint Australian entry for 2021.

If it comes off, it would be the first Aussie yacht to sail in the race for more than 20 years, and a long 37 years since Alan Bond’s audacious “Boxing Kangaroo” win with the winged-keel Australia II in 1983.

The absence of an Australian yacht in sailing’s fastest, cutting-edge and highest-profile international racing event is a tender issue.

More than half the skippers, navigators, crew, managers and offshore support teams for the seven entries at Bermuda were Aussies, including Team Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill and navigator and gold Olympian Tom Slingsby, along with Swedish Artemis skipper and Australian gold medallist Nathan Outteridge. And the regatta was run by Australian yachting legend Iain Murray.

Behind the latest talk is 84-year-old property developer Ervin Vidor, sailing his plus 76-foot luxury French cruising yacht, named after his wife Charlotte, who was also aboard at Hamilton Island last week.

Vidor, who owns hotel apartment chains Vibe, Medina, Adina and TraveLodge, is a quiet multi-billionaire worth more than $2 billion, despite his latest Rich List entry estimating his wealth at just $804 million.

House view

A senior Fairfax Media figure has called it. CBS’s proposed takeover of Ten Network is bad for Australian media.

In his weekly musing, ­Financial Review editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury went against the house view (that is, his boss CEO Greg Hywood and chairman Nick ­Falloon) noting not only was the CBS play bad for News Corp, “it’s also bad for other Australian legacy media companies, including Fairfax Media, Nine Entertainment and Seven West Media.” Stutch notes, “these media companies are most likely to sustain genuine local news operations”. Rather, it is the “outdated” cross-media rules that remain lodged in the Senate that “make it more difficult for Australian media to consolidate into the scale required to compete against big global media companies, including Facebook and Google”, Stutch helpfully points out.

Crew who’s who

Meanwhile, back to the boats. With an America’s Cup entry costing more than $50m to mount, Ervin Vidor is not going to go it alone.

Other contributors could include former Porsche racing car expert and Brisbane office tower developer Peter Harburg, who’s preparing his 100-footer Black Jack for a tilt at this year’s Sydney-Hobart race.

On board Black Jack at Hamilton Island as tactician was Tom Slingsby, who’s desperate to sail under the flag of his birth in an America’s Cup and who is repeatedly mentioned as the man most likely to skipper any future Australian boat.

Sandy Oatley, boss of the Oatley/Hamilton Island group, is not interested after the way his father’s potential challenge was treated. But accountant-to-the-stars Anthony Bell, winner of last year’s S2H on Perpetual Loyal, has repeatedly been mentioned as keen to back an America’s Cup bid in NZ waters, although his recent appearance in the courts over his vicious marriage breakdown with Kelly Landry has dented his appetite for publicity.

Trouble in paradise

Eastward across the Coral Sea from Hamilton Island, there’s trouble in paradise for entrepreneurial Shane Pettiona and Darren Pettiona, whose Iririki Resort in Vanuatu faces the possibility of being shut down in a legal stoush with a builder over work done to repair the damage wrought by Cyclone Pam in 2015. Here in Australia, Shane is probably best known for being a driving force behind a controversial 2015 JV between his 112 group and Fairfax Media under which production of the media group’s Drive section was outsourced.

Darren, meanwhile, is a finance sector veteran whose accomplishments include a stint in 2011 as a director of van Eyk, a $600m funds management empire that collapsed in 2014 (much to the embarrassment of Nicholas Moore’s Macquarie, many of whose clients were heavily invested in van Eyk’s funds).

Oh, and word has it they are Simon Crean’s nephews.

But in Vanuatu the pair are best known as directors of Iririki Islands Holdings, which owns an island — and the resort development on it — close to capital Port Vila.

On Tuesday the Vanuatu Supreme Court ordered Iririki wound up after it failed to meet a demand for $1.4m from builder Vancorp Construction.

The court has given Iririki a stay while an urgent appeal is heard, and the company also has a cross-claim against Vancorp on foot for some $6m.

Adding to the intrigue, lawyer Dane Thornburgh, who represents the Pettionas, has provided Margin Callwith court documents showing the island paradise’s public prosecutor has laid five charges against a Vancorp director — four of fraud against Iririki and one of stealing construction tools from the site.

Bolton acquisition

Corporate raider Nicholas Bolton’s hair may be floppy, but his (and his associates’) determination to seize control of listed cashbox Molopo Energy is as fixed as a WWI bayonet.

A bid for Molopo by Keybridge Capital (where he was a director until Greg Medcraft’s ASIC unkindly banned him in late 2015) and funds controlled by Aurora Funds Management (where he is half-owner) ended in unfortunate circumstances in late June. The Takeovers Panel found Keybridge and Aurora failed to tell the market they were associated, and ordered some 43 million Molopo shares seized by Medcraft’s mob ahead of being sold off.

Dinted but undaunted, Aurora has pressed on, announcing on July 27 it planned a bid for Molopo involving a total of $5m cash, with the rest to be paid in scrip in one of Aurora’s unlisted funds. As Molopo has more than $60m in the bank, the deal might need sweetening.

And yesterday, Molopo hit back, saying the offer was prohibited under the Corporations Act because Aurora knew it would not be made and was reckless as to whether it could perform its obligations under the offer.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 03 September 2017 )