Cameron charged

Mercury (Hobart) - - FRONT PAGE - AMANDA DUCKER

THE for­mer di­rec­tor of a Tas­ma­nian baby food com­pany is due to face court on crim­i­nal charges.

Janet Cameron, 67, the for­mer di­rec­tor of Launce­s­ton-based baby for­mula pro­ducer Bel­lamy’s, will ap­pear be­fore Ho­bart’s Mag­is­trates Court, af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Aus­tralian Se­cu­ri­ties and In­vest­ments Com­mis­sion. The Kathmandu founder could face five years in jail.

JAN Cameron. It’s a plain name for a busi­ness­woman who has long fas­ci­nated Tas­ma­nia, where she is one of the state’s wealth­i­est people.

Ms Cameron’s un­der-ther­adar modus operandi typ­i­cally makes her next move hard to pre­dict. She al­ways has one, though. De­ci­sive and some would say di­vi­sive, her track record shows she knows how to re­turn serve when chal­lenged.

To­day, though, the ball is not in Ms Cameron’s court.

In­stead, the enig­matic en­trepreneur eyes the pos­si­bil­ity of years in jail if con­victed on two crim­i­nal charges fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Aus­tralian Se­cu­ri­ties and In­vest­ments Com­mis­sion.

To that end, Ms Cameron was not Jan yes­ter­day. She was Janet Heather Cameron, of Ho­bart, in the court doc­u­ments that may in­ter­rupt her long and un­pre­dictable run do­ing what she ap­pears to love do­ing best – mak­ing gob­s­mack­ing amounts of money.

Ms Cameron, 67, will ap­pear be­fore Ho­bart’s Mag­is­trates Court next month on charges dat­ing to her time as a di­rec­tor of Launce­s­ton-based baby for­mula pro­ducer Bel­lamy’s Aus­tralia.

So, yes­ter­day was not a day for the na­ture lover to sew sleep­ing bags for her­self and friends, as she once did, sow­ing the seeds of the Kathmandu em­pire with which she made her ini­tial for­tune.

It was not a day for im­port­ing dis­count re­tail stock for the bar­gain-base­ment Chick­en­feed chain she once owned.

It was not a day to buy up and moth­ball key pri­vately owned regional East Coast as­sets such as the for­mer Gunns wood­chip mill at Tri­abunna, though at­tract­ing the ire of lo­cal res­i­dents has never seemed to bother her.

“My ap­proach is to sit on some­thing, wait for the right tim­ing and then, when you feel the plan­ets align, you do some­thing,” she told TasWeek­end in a 2016 pro­file piece.

It was not a day to scrap with for­mer business part­ners and phil­an­thropic ben­e­fi­cia­ries, for which she also has a rep­u­ta­tion, nor even a time to do­nate tens of mil­lions to her cho­sen an­i­mal wel­fare and en­vi­ron­men­tal causes, as is her wont.

And nor was it a day to take a high-minded stand, as in 2016, when she mounted the Save the Farms cam­paign to keep Aus­tralia’s prime agri­cul­tural land lo­cally owned.

It was partly that wish – a view shared by a vast ma­jor­ity of re­spon­dents in the Mer­cury’s Big Is­sues sur­vey last month – that fuelled her in­volve­ment in a con­sor­tium bid to buy Aus­tralia’s largest dairy en­ter­prise, Tas­ma­nia’s Van Diemen’s Land Com­pany, that same year.

TasFoods Ltd was ini­tially an­nounced as the suc­cess­ful VDL bid­der, with Ms Cameron to chip in $50 mil­lion to the $250 mil­lion offer. They thought they had a deal, then the prop­erty was con­tro­ver­sially sold for $280 mil­lion to Chi­nese busi­ness­man Lu Xian­feng’s Moon Lake In­vest­ments. When new man­age­ment de­ci­sions cre­ated com­mu­nity un­ease, it fed straight into the re­sponse when the sale of Bel­lamy’s it­self was an­nounced as prac­ti­cally a done deal late last year.

The $1.5 bil­lion takeover bid by the China Meng­niu Dairy Com­pany prompted both In­de­pen­dent Mem­ber for Clark Andrew Wilkie and Greens Senator Peter WhishWil­son to flag con­cerns in Can­berra. Mr Wilkie spoke of com­mu­nity anx­i­ety about the Hong Kong-listed com­pany’s offer to the Tas­ma­nian-based business, which was unan­i­mously ac­cepted by the Bel­lamy’s board.

In Par­lia­ment, Mr WhishWil­son sug­gested the share price of Bel­lamy’s may have been in­ten­tion­ally sup­pressed by the Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment’s re­fusal al­most two years ago to grant the nec­es­sary cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to en­able the com­pany to keep ex­port­ing into the coun­try.

This fol­lowed a dif­fi­cult pe­riod and stock mar­ket tur­bu­lence for the com­pany when it was un­able to meet sky­rock­et­ing de­mand, par­tic­u­larly from China, for the or­ganic baby for­mula prod­uct.

At that time, the Mer­cury was told by a usually re­li­able source that some Tas­ma­ni­ans were set to profit hand­somely from the pro­posed sale.

And the top name men­tioned to this jour­nal­ist was none other than the plain­sound­ing cor­po­rate raider Jan Cameron, who was pre­dicted to re­ceive $285 mil­lion for her share in the com­pany.

And, with it, a whole lot of trou­ble, it seems.

For now, Ms Cameron’s fu­ture lies with the court, with the charges against her to be pros­e­cuted by the Com­mon­wealth Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions.

In a nut­shell, ASIC, the cor­po­rate reg­u­la­tor, al­leges that in

2014 Ms Cameron failed to dis­close her whole and true in­ter­est in Bel­lamy’s, in­clud­ing via her as­so­ci­a­tion with an off­shore en­tity known as The Black Prince Foun­da­tion, a ma­jor in­vestor in the com­pany.

We asked Ms Cameron about that as­so­ci­a­tion in the 2016 pro­file. At that time, Ms Cameron told re­porter Sally Glaet­zer that The Black Prince was not hers but her pri­vate in­vest­ment com­pany, the Elsie Cameron Foun­da­tion, which she also used for char­i­ta­ble pur­poses, owned a small stake in the com­pany.

Our ques­tions fol­lowed spec­u­la­tion in the Aus­tralian

Fi­nan­cial Review in May 2015 that Ms Cameron had rein­vested in the baby-food brand via The Black Prince Foun­da­tion. In mid-2014 Ms Cameron had col­lected $36 mil­lion when Bel­lamy’s listed on the Aus­tralian

Stock Ex­change, re­coup­ing hand­somely on an ini­tial $5 mil­lion in­vest­ment.

The AFR yes­ter­day re­ported that in Jan­uary 2017, when she wanted to spill the Bel­lamy’s board, Ms Cameron said: “I don’t have any con­nec­tion to The Black Prince Foun­da­tion. But we are part of a group that rep­re­sents about 35 per cent of the share regis­ter.”

Ms Cameron’s in­volve­ment with Black Prince was re­vealed amid that board­room bat­tle and share­holder re­volt in 2017.

Ms Cameron re­mained a share­holder in Bel­lamy’s un­til the sale last year. The

Mer­cury was un­able to reach Ms Cameron for comment yes­ter­day.

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