03/06/2010 - 00:00

Eagles field top team on board

03/06/2010 - 00:00


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THE West Coast Eagles might be having a dreadful season on the field but its success off the field may well lie with the long-term strength of the boardroom, which has not been handicapped by salary caps, draft restrictions or drug scandals.

Eagles field top team on board

THE West Coast Eagles might be having a dreadful season on the field but its success off the field may well lie with the long-term strength of the boardroom, which has not been handicapped by salary caps, draft restrictions or drug scandals.

Currently, the Eagles have a formidable board that would comfortably sit next to many an ASX200 company.

It’s chaired by Azure Capital co-founder Mark Barnaba, with other directors including former Woodside executive Chris Cronin, deputy leader of the federal opposition Julie Bishop, RAC Group chief executive Terry Agnew, Entrust founder Graeme Yukich, former SAS regiment commander lieutenant colonel James McMahon, Alcoa Australia managing director Alan Cransberg, and Eagles 11-year chief executive Trevor Nisbett.

But it is not just the strength of the current board that tells the Eagles’ corporate story; it is the connections with past leaders that offer some insight into this interface between the business and sporting communities.

Take, for instance, Michael Smith, who chaired the board from 1998 to 2002. He shares many of the characteristics exemplified by Mr Barnaba, both of whom fit into our list of the most influential people in business.

Both have built influential careers as entrepreneurial advisers, Mr Barnaba as an investment banker, Mr Smith in marketing and strategic development. Both are directors of ASX-listed companies (Mr Barnaba is on FMG; Mr Smith is on iiNet and Automotive Holdings Group).

But their rising influence is in the government-owned entities, where Mr Barnaba chairs Western Power and Mr Smith chairs Synergy. These latter roles are both prominent in the sense of leading major businesses but also bring these chairmen into closer contact with government than most private business heads.

The pair follows one of the Eagles most prominent directors, Neil Hamilton, who chaired the football club in 1988 and 1989.

Mr Hamilton went on to be a director of several ASX companies and headed the Western Power board prior to the disaggregation of the power utility.

Long-serving Eagles chair Dalton Gooding had the post between Mr Smith and Mr Barnaba. His portfolio of ASX companies has included volatile stocks such as Clinical Cell Culture, now called Avita Medical, and Brierty.

Mr Gooding was made a life member last year, one of only three corporate names on the club’s legends list. On the list he joined was Murray McHenry, a publican who was one of the club’s founders, but it is the other name who makes more relevant reading in the context of 2010’s Most Influential – Nigel Satterley.

Described by one board member as a great benefactor to club, Mr Satterley is one of Perth’s most successful property players, responsible for numerous suburban land developments and earning enough to place among the country’s wealthiest people.

While he hasn’t held the chair of the Eagles he has, so WA Business News has been told, put a great deal of time and energy into helping players and coaches of the past stand on their own two feet financially.

Among the current board members at the Eagles, Mr Cransberg is another who sits on our list of influential business leaders and comes close to the top echelons of power.

A legendary football player 30 years ago, he went on from an engineering career to become one of Alcoa’s most senior executives. Since returning to Perth to run Alcoa’s important Australia operations he has embedded himself quickly in the local community, joining not just the Eagles board but also the Black Swan State Theatre Company board, which also has its own powerful board, including Rio Tinto’s Australian chief Sam Walsh.

Mr Cransberg has also been active in business issues, notably as an outspoken critic of the cost of domestic gas.

Of course, the Eagles’ track record is not lost on others.

Apart from the Fremantle Dockers board, which is chaired by advertising chief Steve Harris and boasts Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder at the table, the arts sector and community groups have become more adept at attracting major names as their directors.

As previously mentioned, Black Swan Theatre Company has a very corporate board beyond Mr Cransberg and Mr Walsh. Other directors are University of Western Australia vice-chancellor Alan Robson, KPMG partner Craig Yaxley, McKenzie Moncrieff founder Rob McKenzie, and Hawaiian general manager marketing Kate O’Hara.

Another good example is the WA Ballet, which has former BHP Billiton oil executive Bret Mattes as chairman and includes Oakajee Port and Rail chief executive John Langoulant, management consultant Brian Cole, leading lawyer Ian Cochrane, former prosecutor Patti Chong, Woodside executive Eve Howell, and stockbroker Heather Zampatti.

The WA Opera company is chaired by former Wesfarmers finance director Erich Fraunschiel, while other directors include current Wesfarmers finance director Terry Bowen, Peet chairman Warwick Hemsley, federal opposition deputy leader Julie Bishop, Water Corp executive Catherine Ferrari, banker Andrew Whitechurch, and financial adviser Michelle Saunders.

Other powerful not-for-profit board groups include the UWA School of Business and the Committee for Perth.

Apart from Mr Barnaba, UWA’s business school board includes former banker Tony Howarth, former Woodside chief executive John Akehurst, current Woodside chief executive Don Voelte, property developer Adrian Fini, Mr Goyder, business leader John Poynton, BHP Billiton Iron Ore WA chief Ian Ashby, Water Corporation chief executive Sue Murphy, former Australian of the Year Fiona Wood, and business school dean Tracey Horton.

The Committee for Perth board includes Mr Howarth, lawyer John Atkins, senior BHP Billiton adviser Ian Fletcher, hospitality leader Kate Lamont, Mr Langoulant, Ernst & Young WA manager Jeff Dowling, former Wesfarmers finance director Gene Tilbrook and Rio Tinto Iron Ore human resources chief Joanne Farrell.


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