17/07/2007 - 22:00

Poynton's perspective well worth a listen

17/07/2007 - 22:00


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John Poynton’s WA Business News Success & Leadership breakfast speech has been described as cathartic, which is a good word and appears to fit the situation well.

John Poynton’s WA Business News Success & Leadership breakfast speech has been described as cathartic, which is a good word and appears to fit the situation well.

Within six months, from the heights of the worst publicity the Alinta Ltd management buyout attracted, Mr Poynton has clearly moved on – and not without some relief, from my point of view.

I know that readers love controversy, so I ought to embrace it with relish.

But I don’t.

The Alinta drama had so many twists and turns, and got so ugly, that I believed there was little to gain for anyone, including us. When an issue like Alinta splits the local business community, there’s little advantage in taking sides or even fence sitting.

We put the issue on our front page twice in the first two months of the year.

Both editions represented different sides of the story, to some extent. Both resulted in considerable responses – off the record, I might add – from readers, some close to the action, some distant and disinterested.

I was surprised, I might add, by the depth of feeling expressed by those who have chosen to discuss this issue with me.

In the end, no matter what others think of those articles, I believe they were both, in essence, good summaries of the situation – even with the benefit of new information.

The first, written by me, was an early overview of the situation. I concluded that, with Alinta’s history of ambitious corporate activity and Mr Poynton’s own background as a deal maker, an MBO may well have been the inevitable result of putting these two elements together and then letting them run out of options.

The second article, written by Mark Beyer, surveyed the top echelons of Western Australia’s heavyweight directors, business leaders and professional advisers. It was clear they were not happy with the way the Alinta MBO had unfolded, and how it was giving ammunition to those who think business in WA is different to the rest of the country.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I reckon everyone involved in this drama has taken something from it.

It’s worth remembering that mistakes by others create the history from which the rest of us may learn.

Perhaps the most positive thing to come from the events of Alinta is that, despite all the histrionics, it has not plunged WA back into a new era of being labelled Australia’s corporate cowboys.

In fact, since then we’ve seen the Qantas Ltd buyout descend into a much bigger farce, while Wesfarmers Ltd has ridden across the Nullarbor to successfully lay siege to Coles Ltd.

It’s good to have things put back in perspective. It’s been cathartic for all of us.


See, it's not just me...taxi tales of woe

It has been a while since I’ve blown off steam about taxis in this town but it really is time to do again.

About six months ago I booked a taxi for an early morning pick-up for a trip to the airport.

My experience had, until then, been that the taxis turn up early because there are usually tonnes of them under-employed at that time of the day (and it is a booking, after all).

Anyway, the taxi didn’t show and subsequent calls revealed that no cabs were available.

I kind of wondered what the point of booking was. My wife, somewhat annoyed (to say the least) at having to make an early morning airport delivery, made an official complaint on my behalf and with my encouragement.

The response was pretty much what you’d expect. Apparently, the failure of the taxi to turn up on time was actually my fault. It was all very Pythonesque, but apparently the standard line is that I was supposed to anticipate delays, though there was little clarity on exactly how much of a delay I was supposed to anticipate.

Anyway, this issue has been a bit of sleeper with me. I don’t like to use the opportunity of this column for personal gratification, so I waited for the tide of public opinion to turn my way.

Maybe these examples are enough.

A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday night, I was entertaining some overseas guests who had been turfed out of a perfectly good pub at midnight because of some silly licensing rules. It was dark and cold and I had about four taxis’ worth of guests looking for a place to restart their evening.

Do you think we could even get through to organise a taxi? Do you reckon the pub would help us, rather than leave 20 or so of their recent customers standing outside in the middle of winter? Fortunately it wasn’t raining, but the long walk these visitors were subjected to on their last night in Perth certainly put a dampener on their experience here.

At the weekend, a colleague told me of her birthday celebrations ending in rather dismal circumstances.

Deciding to end their celebrations at the sensible hour of 3am (it depends which side of 30 you are for that one), it took them until 6am to get home from Fremantle. Why such a long time? Were they travelling to Margaret River? No, of course not.


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