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The story behind Alinta’s spin

I WAS quite staggered this week to find that Alinta’s general manager of corporate communications David Franklyn had quit over his former employer’s $1.69 billion bid to buy the Australian and New Zealand assets of Duke Energy.

Firstly, Mr Franklyn was no ordinary communications manager. With a background as one of WA’s best known stock market analysts (an unusual route to become a corporate flack), he had become part of Bob Browning’s inner management circle at Alinta.

The second reason I was surprised to find he had quit was because I had been told, when researching a story last week, that he was not available for comment due to “family reasons”.

When I expressed concern at the time, I was told the situation was not a grave one and that it was simply something he had decided to deal with.

It seemed unusual for Mr Franklyn to miss the road show and general hullabaloo surrounding Alinta’s latest mega-deal, but knowing he is a family man, I accepted this line.

Apparently I got the company’s first version of events that day, Tuesday March 16. Reporters after me were told he was on leave.

Both versions were untrue. These answers were occurring at a time when Mr Franklyn had walked out the door from Alinta because he, reportedly, believed the price paid by the once sleepy WA gas utility was too much.

In fact, I am told he handed in his official resignation that very same day – while many in the media still believed he was either dealing with some drama at home or taking a well-deserved break, depending on what time of the day they called in.

Mr Franklyn’s credentials as an analyst made him an unusually good spokesman for the company.

But he may well have felt conflicted by being in a position of having to sell  a deal he didn’t believe in.

For the record, Mr Browning remains positive about the deal and doesn’t think he paid too much.

In fact, he said the final price was not at the top of the range Alinta was prepared to pay.

Mr Browning said he was surprised by Mr Franklyn’s decision to quit.

He said Mr Franklyn often took a more conservative view of valuations but that was part of Alinta’s management process, where many peoples’ views were sought.

“It might be one of the weaknesses in my model, I want to hear what they have to say but it is not a democracy,” Mr Browning said.

And he dismissed thoughts that he was another fly-by-night US CEO making big deals, pointing to a new three-year contract that he will be taking up in June.

Brought to book

WHILE it is slightly out of the ordinary for WA Business News to report on the Holocaust, a rare exception must be made this week in recognition of the work of a colleague, friend and contributor, Joseph Poprzeczny.

Joe Pop, as many tend to refer to him, has recently had a book published called Odilo Globocnik, Hitler’s Man in the East, a historical work documenting the black deeds of an Austrian who oversaw concentration camps and ethnic cleansing operations in Nazi-controlled eastern Europe.

Many of us believe we have a book in us, but this is something Joe has actually achieved.

The book is certainly a labour of love. He started working on the project in 1987, when he discovered the name of a mysterious character who had been active in Joe’s native Poland during the Second World War from his headquarters in Lublin. With virtually no information accessible, Joe decided a book was in order and went about writing it, adding another significant piece to the Nazi jigsaw puzzle as a result.

While the business of documenting such atrocities is largely unprofitable it is very much needed and we wish Joe and his publisher, McFarland & Company (http://www.mcfarlandpub.com), all the best in trying to recoup the costs associated with such research.

I admire the persistence needed to do such work and I am also inspired by the need that good journalists have to unearth things some people would prefer remain hidden. Well done, Joe.

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