BOND, ALAN (1938– )
In 1983, Alan Bond turned his attention to the media after more than two decades of controversial property, mining and industrial deals, mainly in Perth. Buoyed by his recent America’s Cup win, Bond’s public flagship, Bond Corporation, purchased Perth television station STW9 for $40 million and two years later outlaid $65 million for QTQ9 Brisbane.
In January 1987, following the relaxation of cross-media ownership laws, Bond bought TCN9 Sydney and GTV9 Melbourne from Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings for $1.05 billion, ensuring dominance of Australia’s commercial television market, but further burdening his companies with unsustainable debt. His $800 million cash payment prompted Packer to remark that you ‘only get one Alan Bond in a lifetime’.
Bond Media, the company floated to finance the acquisition, also owned several regional television stations, nine radio stations and Australia’s only satellite broadcaster, Sky Channel. In 1987, Bond also took a 22.5 per cent stake in the fledgling British satellite consortium British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB). While visionary, the BSB venture ultimately failed, costing Bond Corporation shareholders over $300 million. Bond also purchased Hong Kong television station HKTVB for $190 million through Bond Corporation International Ltd. Newspapers, including the West Australian, were added in 1988. He also briefly owned Perth television station TVW7, through Bond Corporation’s controlling interest in Robert Holmes à Court’s Bell Group.
By 1989, Bond Corporation and its subsidiaries were on the brink of collapse and Bond stood down as head of Bond Corporation. The Nine Network was sold back to Consolidated Press Holdings in 1990 for less than a quarter of the original purchase price. Nevertheless, Bond proved adept at both quarantining much of his personal wealth from aggrieved creditors and deflecting serious corporate and criminal charges. He managed to have the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal’s (ABT) unprecedented 1989 decision to declare him unfit to hold a television licence overturned on a technicality after a High Court appeal. The ABT had decided that a $400,000 defamation payment to Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, revealed by Bond in a compromising interview with Jana Wendt on his Nine Network, effectively constituted a bribe. It also found Bond guilty of threatening to have his television staff dig up damaging material about a leading investment manager critical of Bond Corporation’s selective takeover of cashed-up miner Bell Resources.
Additionally, Bond was found guilty in three fraud and deception cases. However, two of these convictions were overturned and he served less than four years in prison (1996–2000) after protracted legal wrangling and another successful High Court appeal.
REF: P. Barry, The Rise and Fall of Alan Bond (1990).