Haunted by pri­vate eq­ui­teers

The Weekend Australian - - BUSINESS REVIEW - WILL GLAS­GOW & CHRIS­TINE LACY

What have Aus­tralia’s most in­fa­mous pri­vate eq­ui­teers Robin Bishop, Ben Gray and Si­mon Harle got against former CSL chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Tony Cipa?

Cipa is a di­rec­tor on the Tracey Hor­ton-chaired board of ed­u­ca­tion busi­ness Nav­i­tas, which this week re­ceived an in­trigu­ing $2 bil­lion takeover of­fer from the pri­vate eq­ui­teers, Aus­tralia’s big­gest su­per­an­nu­a­tion fund Aus­tralianSu­per (an ex­ist­ing Nav­i­tas share­holder, with a 5.4 per cent stake) and Nav­i­tas’s founder Rod­ney Jones (who owns 12.6 per cent of the group).

It’s the sec­ond time this year the 63-year-old Cipa has found him­self on a board un­der siege from a for­mi­da­ble al­liance of Bishop, Gray and Harle’s $2.6 bil­lion pri­vate eq­uity fund BGH and Ian Silk’s $140 bil­lion Aus­tralianSu­per.

Cipa is also a board mem­ber of the Paula Dwyer-chaired pri­vate hos­pi­tal group Health­scope, which in April was pounced on by a sim­i­lar BGH-led con­sor­tium that in­cluded Aus­tralianSu­per as an ex­clu­sive part­ner.

BGH and their co-in­vestors have not en­tirely given up on their $4 bil­lion Health­scope bid, de­spite be­ing re­buffed by the board. Their co-op­er­a­tion agree­ment is yet to ex­pire.

Hor­ton’s Nav­i­tas board — which along with Cipa in­cludes David Robb, a di­rec­tor of the Mel­bourne Foot­ball Club no doubt fa­mil­iar with Bishop, an AFL com­mis­sioner — is be­ing ad­vised by Si­mon Roth­ery’s Gold­man Sachs.

Con­sid­er­ing his expertise in deal­ing with BGH-led bids, it’s per­haps not a sur­prise to hear Cipa is lead­ing the Nav­i­tas takeover re­sponse.

Mar­gin Call hears Cipa and the BGH crew had a bit of a laugh about the fa­mil­iar­ity of the sit­u­a­tion.

Dis­ap­point­ingly for readers look­ing to Cipa for clues on BGH’s next target, Nav­i­tas and Health­scope are his only two di­rec­tor­ships. Enough to keep him busy right now.

No role for Cato

For all the strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties,

there are some changes on the BGH team this time around.

Mor­gan Stan­ley is act­ing as the BGH-led con­sor­tium’s fi­nan­cial ad­viser, we hear, be­cause of a long re­la­tion­ship with rich-lis­ter Rod­ney Jones.

And, unlike in the re­cent Health­scope tilt (and al­most ev­ery other Ben Gray- re­lated es­capade over the last decade), spin queen Sue Cato is not in­volved.

It seems Cato and Gray’s long­stand­ing work­ing re­la­tion­ship has come to an end — for now, at least.

She’s no poodle

It was hardly a se­cret that Lucy Turnbull was a key ad­viser to Mal­colm Turnbull through­out his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer and prime min­is­ter­ship. Noth­ing wrong with that. Nor is there any­thing wrong with the in­flu­en­tial role Jackie Stricker-Phelps has in the po­lit­i­cal ca­reer of her wife Ker­ryn Phelps, the in­de­pen­dent can­di­date try­ing to suc­ceed Turnbull in the seat of Went­worth.

In­deed, it seems fit­ting con­sid­er­ing the seat’s re­cent his­tory.

Like the Greater Syd­ney Com­mis­sion grand-poobah Lucy Turnbull, Stricker-Phelps is keen on lo­cal pol­i­tics.

But they have very dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tions strategies.

Just have a look at the en­thu­si­as­tic con­tri­bu­tions the Potts Point-re­sid­ing Strick­erPhelps has made in re­cent months to a Face­book group de­voted to her lo­cal neigh­bour­hood.

“I am sick of dodg­ing bikes on the foot­path. My poodle has nearly been run over (on the leash) on a daily ba­sis by food de­liv­ery peo­ple and id­iots who ride on the foot­path,” Strick­erPhelps wrote.

Poodle prob­lems. We’ve all had them.

Much like Don­ald Trump’s ap­proach, these ex­er­cises in lo­cal po­lit­i­cal ex­pres­sion can come at any hour.

One fel­low Potts Pointer noted one fu­ri­ous con­tri­bu­tion was de­liv­ered at a Trumpian 3am.

“That’s be­cause I was awake at 3am and fu­ri­ous about the is­sue,” Stricker-Phelps replied. Fair enough. Her can­di­date wife Phelps is also no­tably re­spon­sive on so­cial me­dia (although less fond of all caps than her wife is).

Should they be suc­cess­ful in their Can­berra tilt against the Lib­er­als’ Dave Sharma, you’ll hear­ing a lot more from the po­lit­i­cal cou­ple — at all hours of the day.

Soccer it to me

Stephen Con­roy re­mains as en­thu­si­as­tic as a snow­boarder in Beaver Creek about next month re­plac­ing Steven Lowy as the chair of Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion Aus­tralia. Or so Mar­gin Call is told. Over the com­ing fort­night, can­di­dates are be­ing can­vassed by the sport­ing code’s re­cently en­larged vot­ers.

Bar­ring a new con­tender emerg­ing, we un­der­stand Con­roy re­mains the favourite.

Should the former La­bor se­na­tor get the gig, some are in­ter­ested to see how he would man­age the role with his day job as the chair of Re­spon­si­ble Wa­ger­ing Aus­tralia, a lob­by­ing out­fit for the on­line gam­bling in­dus­try.

But let’s not get ahead of our­selves.

Noth­ing is cer­tain in this world — es­pe­cially not any­thing in the or­bit of FIFA.

Make mine a Coke

Mel­bourne’s Lord Mayor Sally Capp was along at The Aus­tralian and Mel­bourne In­sti­tute’s Out­look Con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, giv­ing us the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to solve a months- long puz­zle. Is the mayor re­ally sell­ing the vend­ing ma­chine busi­ness she owns with David Fox, one of the scions of the $3.56 bil­lion Fox fam­ily for­tune and a re­cent donor to Capp’s may­oral race?

Sources in June told Mar­gin Call a sale of the busi­ness was im­mi­nent.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, that was af­ter we first asked about the com­mer­cial ar­range­ment.

Five months on, the com­pany pa­per­work for the vend­ing ma­chine op­er­a­tion Pro Vend­ing Pty Ltd looks un­changed.

Capp and Fox each have a 25 per cent stake, along­side Sam Ar­curi and Enio Di Donato.

Has the “im­mi­nent” sale been put on hold? Or was the sale chatter just a ruse?

The mayor yes­ter­day po­litely de­clined to com­ment, say­ing it was a pri­vate busi­ness mat­ter.

So Mel­bourne.

Not you again! Tony Cipa and pri­vate eq­ui­teer Ben Gray

Ker­ryn Phelps, Jackie Stricker-Phelps and the en­dan­gered poodle

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