Tag Archives: Fairfax

Lady Mary Fairfax

Lady Mary FairfaxThere’s been blood on the floor of the Fairfax newsrooms this week with the announcement of nearly 2000 job losses amongst journalists and printers over the next three years, and the scaling down of the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age from broadsheets to tabloids. Many blame Fairfax’s sliding fortunes on the internet revolution and the slowness by the Fairfax board to respond to changing technology. But as David Leser writes, the rot set in during the late 1980s when young Warwick Fairfax returned from America brandishing an MBA from Harvard University and strong Christian convictions to take over John Fairfax Ltd, the company his father, Sir Warwick had run in one position or another for the better part of 50 years. Young Warwick’s ambitions were aided and abetted by his mother (Lady) Mary Fairfax in what became both tragedy and farce for the House of Fairfax.

THE TEARS HAVE DRIED AND Lady (Mary) Fairfax is leaning forward
on the sofa clutching her letters and photographs. The butler is
hovering just beyond the reception room and her PR man is looking
anxiously at the floor. ‘Now, do I seem like a person who is interested in
revenge?’ she asks in a deep whisper. The question comes tumbling out
at the end of a two-hour talk-fest brimming with gushy memories and
savage recriminations. Later, serving a lunch of braised chicken and apricot
souffle, she pursues her defence: ‘What sort of character do you think I
am? You tell me.’

What can one say? After 32 years in the public eye; after a rumoured
love affair that scandalised society; after a harrowing divorce trial, a cele-
brated remarriage; after a welter of extraordinary parties with an endless
array of famous guests; and, now, with an Australian media empire in ruin
and a family filled with bad blood, it is no simple question to answer.

Is she one of the most monstrously misunderstood Women in Australian
history, or is she as deceptive as she is clever? Is she the instigator of a
company takeover gone disastrously wrong or the victim of markets, rnale
chauvinism, banks, bad advice, bad luck-and a son, Warwick, who was
always hopelessly out of his depth?

Is she a manipulative, scheming woman, hungry for power, wealth and
status? Or a tireless worker for the arts and charity, as well as a generous,
fun-loving hostess and friend? Is she a family maker or an empire breaker?
A proud matriarch who frequently owns up to only three children or a
tormented mother of four? Is she a Jewess or a Christian? Does she sit
atop staggering wealth or horrendous losses? Is she a figure of romance or
of vengeance?

And is it Mary or Marie?

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Ethics in Journalism

Here’s my recent chat with George Negus on ABC North Coast radio with Joanne Shoebridge. We discussed media ethics in the wake of the Craig Thompson affair, and the collapse of the old business model in funding investigative journalism.

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GINA RINEHART – The Richest Woman on Earth

Fate has given Gina Rinehart both blessings and curses – unimaginable wealth and poisoned personal relationships. On her way to becoming the richest woman on the planet, writes David Leser, the “Iron Maiden” has fought numerous court cases and now finds herself in a bitter battle with three of her four children.

It’s hard to know where to start with Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest person. Perhaps with that history-making image of her father, Lang Hancock, flying over the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia 60 years ago and discovering the world’s biggest iron ore deposit.

Or maybe the spectacular falling out between this hard-boiled, visionary prospector and his daughter nearly 30 years later when Gina realised the Filipino housekeeper she’d hired to look after her father had – ahem – assumed duties well beyond her assigned brief.

Or possibly the manner of Lang Hancock’s death in 1992 when, drowning in his own fluids from cystic kidneys and renal failure, he was then thrown into the psychological anguish of seeing his only acknowledged daughter and third wife, Rose Lacson – the aforementioned Filipino housekeeper – warring over the spoils of his vast minerals wealth?

(Lang Hancock is said to have fathered an illegitimate half-Aboriginal daughter.)

All these points of entry would take us into one of the great unwritten mini-series of our times, but they would only touch the tip of a jaw-dropping narrative that has fascinated – and appalled – Australians for decades.

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