Tears in Murdoch's Kitchen: Another Hit Aussie Soap?

24 November 2005

Australia - a world contender in schmaltzy soap operas - is poised to become undisputed global champ with its latest reality series - the OneTel trial, featuring hunky but emotional James Packer and rugged Lachlan Murdoch as his best mate.

The story (titled Friends Meet Cell Block OneTel) so far . . .

Once upon a time in the Antipodes, around 2000 so the story goes, two rival business bushwhackers - Kerry, the rough, tough and ruthless patriarch of the Packer clan; and his chum, canny but cold-hearted Rupert, chieftain of the Murdoch nation - poured an awful lot of money into OneTel, an ambitious teleco startup headed by red-blooded young entrepreneur Jodee Rich.

Anxious to safeguard their investments, Papa Packer and Pop Murdoch installed their respective scions as non-executive directors of the new company.

Sadly, however, in 2001, despite their best efforts James and Lachlan found themselves up to their necks in the wreckage of Onetel after it went bust to the tune of A$92 million ($67.2m; €57.3m; £39.2m). Both claimed they had been "profoundly misled" as to the company's true financial state by Rich and his finance director Mark Silbermann . . .

Fast-forward to November 2005 and a Supreme Court case in which Rich and Silbermann are arraigned by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission - and the Packer and Murdoch sons called as witnesses.

In heartrending mode that would not have disgraced Niles Crane, Lachlan Murdoch told Tuesday's hearing how, on the Sunday night before OneTel's collapse, Packer junior broke down and cried in his (Murdoch's) kitchen.

Packer apologised to his best mate and fellow media heir for dragging him into the telecommunications disaster. According to Murdoch, Packer junior had been "extremely pale" and "virtually silent" at a OneTel crisis meeting with Packer executives on May 27, 2001.

Following the meeting held at Lachlan's home, he and Packer went downstairs to the kitchen, where the latter repeatedly said "I'm sorry" and by the end of their conversation was in tears. In response to a question from counsel, Murdoch denied Packer had said his father, Kerry, was angry with him.

The Sydney soap opera will continue daily until further notice. Ratings will be published as and when available.

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