OneTel Court Hears of Packer's Sickbed Briefing

08 December 2005

The stars of Australia's latest soap opera Friends Meet Cell Block OneTel [WAMN: 24-Nov-05] are still struggling in the fog of fuzzy memories.

James Packer's prolonged but vague testimony in the Sydney trial of Jodee Rich and Mark Silbermann, former directors of failed telco OneTel, was 'unclear' on the details of a business meeting held round the sick-bed of his father Kerry.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is suing Rich and Silbermann for A$92 million ($67m; €57m; £39m) in damages for allegedly allowing the company to trade while insolvent for at least three months before its implosion in May 2001.

The court heard from Packer junior that the mid-February, 2001 hospital meeting was concerned with OneTel's cash flow. Packer senior, via his company Publishing and Broadcasting, and fellow media mogul Rupert Murdoch had invested heavily in the start-up telco.

James, unfortunately, could not quite remember the details of conversations around the sick-bed but conceded that his father would have asked several questions relating to the company's cash position.

PBL and Murdoch's News Corporation together lost about A$1 billion when OneTel folded.

At the time, Packer and Lachlan Murdoch, a fellow non-executive director, issued a statement claiming they had been profoundly misled about the telco's financial state.

The hearing continues.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff