Jul 07

Remembering Alan Bond – business giant, America’s Cup hero and convicted fraudster

Aland Bond, who grew from humble beginnings to become one of Australia’s wealthiest and controversial businessmen, has died at the age of 77.

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Mr Bond has inscribed the pages of Australia’s history books, both as the first non-American to seize the coveted America’s Cup sailing trophy and for his conviction over the country’s biggest-ever fraud.

One of Australia’s richest men during the 1980s, Alan Bond’s fall from grace began in 1992 when he declared bankruptcy. He was jailed in 1997 for a $1.2bn fraud involving his takeover of Bell Resources. He served three years before his release in 2000 after a successful High Court appeal against the length of his sentence. Upon his release, he told reporters he had no immediate plans for the future. “I’m just going to spend some time now and try and sort of get my life back together. It’s a little bit emotional to be quite frank. That’s about as much as I can say.”                                                                                                                   

Migrating with his family from England as a child, Alan Bond had left school at the age of 15, starting his career as a signwriter. While working, he undertook night studies in accountancy. 

‘Extremely ambitious, extremely confident’

One of his oldest friends, Denis Sowden told ABC’s Four Corners program in 1989 Mr Bond was extremely ambitious, and extremely confident, from a young age. “He was on the move, you know? He was a bloke who was always having a go. He had a different way of looking at things. He would want to do something, he’d be doing it. You’d wake up in the morning, find Alan was somewhere doing something. Other people would be saying, ‘Oh, wouldn’t be a bad idea.’ If Alan thought it was a good idea he did it. If it wasn’t a good idea, he found out later on.”

In 1983, after making a fortune as a property developer, Alan Bond became an Australian hero when his financial backing helped Australia II claim victory in the America’s Cup yacht race. It was the first time in 132 years that the New York Yacht club had lost the America’s Cup. 

Then-Prime Minister Bob Hawke noted the achievement with delight, telling reporters “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.” 

But while he is remembered for one of Australia’s great sporting victories, in the business world he was less simple to characterise. 

‘I don’t think he worries at night’

Speaking to ABC journalist Paul Barry in 1989, merchant banker Mark Burrows described Alan Bond as a driven man with the ability to compartmentalise his life. “I think he goes to sleep at night. That would be my impression. I can’t say that from any personal experience but I don’t think he worries at night. I think he has that great capacity to turn off. I mean if he didn’t, if he was like 99 per cent of us, he wouldn’t be here, would he? So he is someone who I think probably one of his strengths is that he can actually see himself in a reasonable perspective.” 

Alan Bond’s personal life was just as mercurial as his professional life. 

As a child he’d had rheumatic fever, which had led to surgery to replace a valve in his heart in 1992. It was the same year he and Eileen Hughes divorced after a 37-year marriage. He had been 17 years old in 1955 when they married, and the union had produced four children. 

In 1995 he married theatre producer Diana Bliss. 

While in jail in 1997 for his involvement in the takeover of Bell Resources, Alan Bond was stripped of his Officer of the Order of Australia honour awarded in 1984 after winning the America’s Cup. 

His daughter Susanne was found dead aged 41 in 2000 after a prescription drug overdose, while second wife Diana Bliss took her own life in 2012.

Jul 07

Carlton back in Kreuzer mood

Carlton caretaker-coach John Barker says he hopes the short-term pain of leaving Chris Yarran out of his AFL side this weekend will yield dividends in the future.

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The Blues go into Saturday’s match with Adelaide bolstered by the inclusion of three big players; captain Marc Murphy, Chris Judd and long-term absentee Matthew Kreuzer.

But the absence of Yarran, handed an internal suspension for repeated lateness, has soured the occasion.

On Tuesday morning, Barker ordered the Blues squad into a dawn swim following the 24-year-old’s indiscretions.

On Saturday, the second-game coach said he was willing to forgo the chance to take on the Crows with a full-strength side to make the point.

“We compromise our ability to compete really well this week without him being in,” Barker said.

“But if we don’t stay accountable to a level of standard then we compromise our future and we compromise our ability going forward.

“In terms of his footy he’s been very good for us, in terms of standards … he didn’t quite meet them this week.

“He understands it fully, we had a good discussion about it and it was almost his decision that we stay really accountable.

“He’s an outstanding person … he’ll get that right.”

After earning a three-week ban for punching Essendon’s Paul Chapman earlier in the season, it’s a brain fade Yarran and Carlton can ill afford.

But Kreuzer’s return 15 months after his last AFL game – in round one last year – will be rightfully cheered.

The former No.1 draft pick has proved his fitness after a series of foot injuries by improving each week in three VFL hit-outs.

Barker said he was an “outstanding inclusion” and anticipated any nerves from his long absence would be swiftly dispelled.

“I’m sure he’ll be a little bit anxious but what overcomes anxiousness is effort and attack on the ball and he brings that in spades,” Barker said.

“We don’t expect him to win the game off his own boot but we know he’s going to give strong effort.”

Barker said Kreuzer’s return to rucking duties could benefit emerging forward Levi Casboult.

“That’s going to help no doubt, it helps our mechanics of who goes into the ruck and the ability to keep a tall forward present.”

In Carlton’s first home match since the dumping of Mick Malthouse as senior coach, Barker called for a response from fans after seeing support rapidly dwindle as losses piled up.

“Our supporters and fans and members are really important to us,” he said.

“We’d love to see them there in droves because the football club is about everybody, it’s not any individual.”

Jul 07

RBA in ‘uncharted territory’ on rates

With the cash rate at an historic low, the Reserve Bank is in “uncharted territory” as it seeks to boost the non-mining parts of the economy, an economist says.

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After May’s quarter of a percentage point rate cut, the RBA left the official cash rate at two per cent in June, noting that lower interest rates were helping to support borrowing and spending.

However, a key concern for the central bank remains weak business investment, which has failed to rebound as mining investment has unwound.

Speaking on Friday, JP Morgan fixed income strategist Sally Auld said the RBA was currently in a unique position, describing the global economic environment as “much more fragile than it has been at any time in the last couple of decades”.

“It’s a lot more uncertain,” Ms Auld said, adding that she had her fingers crossed the US Federal Reserve would hike the Federal Funds Rate in September.

An interest rate hike in the US would put downward pressure on the Australian dollar, and make exports cheaper and increase the competitiveness of locally-made goods with imported products.

She said Australia’s central bank was seeking to support growth in the non-mining parts of the economy as the Chinese economy slows, the currency remains strong, households carry large amounts of debt, and with fiscal repair still to be done.

“There’s this whole confluence of factors that make economic policy-making in Australia quite difficult at the moment,” Ms Auld told the 2015 Corporate Governance Forum.

“The RBA to a certain extent finds itself in uncharted territory.

“They need to generate a set of financial conditions that is loose enough to engender some above trend growth in the non-mining economy.”

She said a key issue for the central bank was to hit the right mix of currency value and interest rates.

“Now we’re at two per cent on the cash rate and 76 US cents on the currency, and I think the RBA are crossing their fingers,” she said.

“They’re finding their way in the dark a little bit.”

It was likely that in six months time the RBA would assess the economy and cut rates again, if needed, Ms Auld added.

“They can’t sit by and watch an economy that seems to be mired in a sort of permanent state of sub-trend growth and do nothing.”

The market is currently pricing in a slightly higher than 50-50 chance that the RBA will cut the cash rate before the end of the year.

Jul 07

Alan Bond, Australian businessman and sailing figure, dead at 77

The 77-year-old Bond had been in intensive care in a hospital in the city of Perth following a triple-bypass operation on Tuesday and never regained consciousness, according to his family.

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“To a lot of people, dad was a larger than life character who started with nothing and did so much,” his son Craig, one of three children, told reporters outside the hospital. “He really did experience the highs and lows of life.”

Bond achieved international acclaim for helping to bankroll the winning yacht, Australia II, in its upset victory in the 1983 America’s Cup, handing the New York Yacht Club its first ever loss in its 132-year history in the contest.

Born in Britain in 1938, Bond sailed with his parents to the port town of Fremantle in Western Australia in 1950, leaving school at 15 to become an apprentice signwriter.

But after marrying the daughter of a prominent businessman and politician at 18, Bond plunged into the construction and real estate businesses, becoming a millionaire at 21.

A string of audacious deals in gold, oil, property, brewing and television followed, making him one of the country’s best known businessmen.

In 1987 Bond, an avid collector of Impressionist paintings, secretly bought Vincent van Gogh’s “Irises” for a world record $49 million to hang in his luxurious Perth penthouse office.

He also bought a country estate containing a whole village in Britain, an island off Western Australia and a number of expensive yachts.

It was also in 1987 that he paid media mogul Australian Kerry Packer A$1.1 billion (551 million pounds) for the high-profile Channel Nine television network, but was later forced to sell it back to Packer at a fraction of the price.

In 1997, Bond was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding his company, Bell Resources, of A$1.2 billion ($935 million). He served four years of the sentence and was released in 2000.

Bond was bankrupted for A$622 million, which was then the largest personal bankruptcy in history, before rebuilding at least part of his fortune. In 2008, he was estimated to have amassed a net worth of A$265 million by Business Review Weekly’s annual Rich List.

Bond and his first wife Eileen divorced in 1992. His second wife Diana died in 2012.

(Reporting by Matt Siegel and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Michael Perry)

Jul 07

Hooper brushes bonus-point talk for Tahs

The Cheetahs are at their most vulnerable this Super Rugby season but Michael Hooper isn’t talking up the Waratahs’ chances of banking maximum points from this weekend’s clash in Bloemfontein.

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A four-try bonus-point win against the bottom-placed South African side in their penultimate-round clash will set the Waratahs up nicely to finish top of the Australian conference.

And the Cheetahs are ripe to be taken down.

Sitting 13th on the overall ladder, they have comfortably the worst defensive record in the competition – conceding a whopping 444 points in 2015 – and have leaked more points than normal over the past three weeks.

In emphatic losses to the Stormers, Lions and Highlanders, they’ve let in 16 tries – none of which changes Hooper’s mindset.

“Winning is first and foremost for us,” he told AAP ahead of Saturday’s clash (kick-off 11pm AEST) at Free State Stadium.

“The four-try bonus point is a good bonus.

“But it’s something that we’ll only be playing for where, if points or a try (come up) in the last five minutes of the game, we’re going for the try.

“The target is to really put out a complete performance. We believe the rest will take care of itself.”

The defending champion Waratahs sit equal on points with the Brumbies, who are overwhelming favourites to beat the bottom-of-the-table Western Force on Friday night.

Victories for the Tahs and Brumbies would set up a nervy final round against the Reds and Crusaders respectively in the tussle for playoff berths.

After last week’s loss to the Lions in Johannesburg, Hooper said there’d been a “fair bit of sting” during training.

The pressure of defending their title had not gotten to them, Hooper added.

“It seems like we’ve been chasing our tail with two early byes throughout the year, so it’s nothing new for us to be in the situation we’re in,” he added.

“Isolating the game on the weekend is what we’re going for at the moment.”

Discipline has also been a focus, with three yellow cards and as many suspensions in just two weeks.

Rob Horne, the last to be banned for a lifting tackle, has been replaced by Matt Carraro, while big flanker Jacques Potgieter returns to the starting side from a chest injury.

Hooper admitted the Waratahs had to “rein in” the number of penalties they were conceding while maintaining their “intimidating game”.

“It’s a balance we probably haven’t got right the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“But we want 15 guys on the field for a really good, strong 80 minutes this week.

“I don’t think guys should be scared, but they need to be smart players.”

The Cheetahs are well out of finals contention, but a fresh halves pairing in former Waratahs No.9 Sarel Pretorius and Niel Marais make them an unpredictable force at home.

“We’re excited about playing a different style of footy, and that’s Cheetahs rugby, but we want to put our play out there and really dominate the game,” Hooper added.