Skip to main content


Is management learning its lessons from vile Kyle? – view article

What makes a good editor? – view article

Where the Wild Things are… – view article

Power Dressers – view article

Fast Cars, High Society and Fraud – view article

Is management learning its lessons from vile Kyle?

Crikey, July 18, 2012

As the employers of shock jock Kyle Sandilands wait to learn if the latest penalty from the media regulator will stick, the stunningly honest testimony of 2Day FM’s general manager reveals the station’s hope for business as usual — even if it is offensive.

Being in hot water isn’t a new experience for 2Day. An employee charged with monitoring The Kyle and Jackie O Show for offensive comments and armed with a 10-second delay button to stop the broadcast if necessary, was in the studio last November when Sandilands called a female journalist, who had given a poor review of a TV show he starred in, a “piece of shit” and a “fat slag” who he would “hunt down” if she didn’t “watch her mouth”.

As station management is well aware, Sandilands’ outburst triggered many complaints and caused the Australian Communications and Media Authority to impose a five-year broadcasting licence condition that all of the station’s programs meet industry standards of decency. This is not the first time ACMA has slapped an additional condition on 2Day’s licence, but it is the first time one lasting for five years has been imposed on any broadcaster.

The station, which is appealing ACMA’s decision, had its day in court last week. General manager Jeremy Simpson told the Administrative Appeals Tribunal the new licence condition means “we need only one more slip up” for the station to be in real danger of losing its broadcasting licence.

But despite this fear, Simpson showed no real concern why in-house measures to stop Sandilands from going too far have failed. When asked by ACMA’s counsel Richard Lancaster if he has ever asked staff why the delay button was not pushed during Sandilands rant last year, Simpson admitted he hasn’t. When asked if any inquiry whatsoever had ever been made, Simpson calmly answered he “was not aware” of any.

Simpson’s apparent incomprehension that there was anything wrong with that is revealing, but it doesn’t stop there.

The station has already begun a program of training focused on the commercial radio code of practice for all employees involved in the preparation and presentation of programs, training that Sandilands and his co-host Jackie Henderson, known as Jackie O, have completed. However, there is evidence suggesting the session attended by Sandilands and Henderson only lasted 15 minutes.

When faced with this evidence, senior legal counsel for Southern Cross Austereo Julian Zmood, who oversaw the training sessions, countered by claiming Sandilands’ and Henderson’s session may have been scheduled for as long as half an hour. It appears Sandilands took the session as an opportunity to ask whether he would be able to use the word “bullshit” on air and whether management consider such training “a one-off for the moment”.

There is no way station management is unaware of how loathed Sandilands is by the public, who recently voted him Australia’s most disliked media personality. But people love to hate him, so Kyle Sandilands is a ratings king. The audience for the Kyle and Jackie O Show has grown since the latest outrage, with Nielsen figures in June showing the show remaining second only to Alan Jones’ program on 2GB in terms of Sydney’s breakfast radio audience. The program is syndicated throughout Australia.

Despite hatred of Sandilands being intense enough to inspire a “Sack Vile Kyle” campaign, the commercial reality is his broadcasts play a large role in 2Day FM having more than 9% of the overall Sydney radio market (again, second only to 2GB at just under 15%).

Three years ago, the infamous broadcast of Sandilands asking a 14-year-old girl, who had just revealed that she had been r-ped as a 12-year-old, whether she had any other s-xual experience resulted in ACMA slapping a three-year condition on the station’s broadcasting licence. The incident at the centre of the current appeal occurred before that particular licence condition had time to expire. Since then, Sandilands’ has also drawn criticism for his on-air description a deformed Indian child as a “spider baby”.

When asked during the hearing whether he had seen key compliance documents created in response to the 2009 child r-pe chat incident, Simpson said, “Not specifically, I don’t think I have”, adding: “I’m sure if they exist I could find them.”

This year, as in years past, many sponsors and advertisers of the Kyle and Jackie O Show have loudly announced how appalled they are at Sandilands’ on-air comments and pulled their support from the show. Telecommunications giant Optus publicly denounced the show and withdrew sponsorship following the 2009 child r-pe chat incident. Optus has a long-term relationship with the station’s network, Southern Cross Austereo, and still sponsors another 2Day program, but maintains its distance from The Kyle and Jackie O Show.

But the commercial clout of the station’s controversial star means companies large and small still advertise on the show, even thought the “Sack Vile Kyle” campaign names them on its site. Weight loss giant Jenny Craig unsuccessfully tested the waters in January this year by announcing its sponsorship. Howls of protest forced it to withdraw sponsorship a day later.

Protesters might embarrass advertisers, but they haven’t stopped people from tuning into Kyle. In the eyes of 2Day’s management, as long as dollars follow, not much else counts.

Back to top

What makes a good editor?

March 2010 –

Clear briefs and respect for freelancers, in the case of Roger Fox, gardening editor of Better Homes & Gardens Magazine and winner of the 2009 Good Editor Award.

As summer fades, the team at Better Homes and Gardens magazine are turning their minds to autumn bulbs. But knowing exactly when crocus bloom and when to put in the paving is just one set of deadlines gardening editor Roger Fox has to think about.

Behind the bright and cheerful pages of his section is a team of expert freelance writers, photographers and sub editors whose looming deadlines are as important the changing seasons.

“I am very specific with story briefs because I need to be,” says Fox, whose approach made him the winner of the Sydney Freelance Journalists Group’s 2009 Good Editor Award.

Any freelance journalist will tell you that commissioning editors who give unhelpful and vague briefs are thick on the ground. Surprisingly, many can be found in prestigious and high profile publications. As frustrating as it is, freelancers often find themselves making up for poor editorial planning by rewriting stories and retaking pictures at their own considerable expense. But while most freelance journalists quickly learn to bite their tongues, Mother Nature has never had any inclination to wait for dithering editors.

“There are very limited opportunities to photograph something, so the timing needs to be precise,” says freelance horticultural journalist Keran Barrett, who has worked with Fox and his predecessors at the magazine for fifteen years. “A lot of thought and creativity has to go into process of planning stories.”

Barrett, along with fellow freelance writers Marcelle Nankervis and Catherine Stewart, freelance photographers Lorna Rose, Phil Ainsley and Chris L. Jones and a team of four freelance sub editors, including Liz Swanton, who work across the magazine make up the team Fox co-ordinates in time for the perfect photo and helpful garden hint.

“As we write for the months ahead we have to find material out of its actual season,” adds Barrett. “For example, if Roger wants a picture of an autumn bulb while putting together the magazine in summer, he would go to Lorna Rose, who keeps very extensive and organised library of horticultural images.”

Presenting expert advice on the passion of millions of people is a serious business, with the Better Homes and Gardens magazine averaging a monthly circulation of 400,000 copies. Besides nature’s deadlines, Fox’s job is dominated by the need to co-ordinate stories between the weekly Better Homes and Gardens TV show, radio show, website and the monthly magazine section he edits.

“The TV show is sometimes ahead of the magazine and sometimes behind,” say Marcelle Nankervis, who was the gardening editor immediately before Fox and now freelances for the section.

The different and unpredictable deadlines between TV and the magazine make the editor’s job very complex, especially as readers of the magazine expect to read about what they have seen on TV.

“Most other gardening magazines don’t have that drama,” says Nankervis. “Better Homes and Gardens is quite a big machine and briefing work out to freelancers is a difficult task.”

The stories Fox commissions are often topics scheduled to appear both on TV and in the magazine, with the remainder being about whatever is of interest to readers at time of publication. But even when the story topics are set, differences between the mediums means the expertise of both Fox and his freelancers constantly comes into play.

“The TV show might present fifteen steps to solve a particular gardening problem, but we might only have room in the magazine for eight,” says Barrett. And while Fox’s briefs are concise, he also gives his freelancers flexibility consummate to their knowledge and experience. “He is not so rigid as to say ‘this is what I want, end of story,” says Barrett.

Together the TV show, magazine, radio show and website form one of the country’s biggest multimedia lifestyle brands with huge amounts of advertising dollars involved. But rather than triggering haughty treatment of freelancers, Fox is known for his even temper.

“He treats people with respect and values their professionalism,” says Liz Swanton, one of the freelance subs on the magazine who works for a wide variety of publications in other fields. “It’s refreshing. We’ve all had times in our freelance careers when we have dealt with editors who are, shall we say, high handed.”

Catherine Stewart, who has just filed her first two stories for Fox but has freelanced for numerous horticultural publications over the last eight years, likes the way Fox will not only outline what he wants over the phone but will also confirm such details in a follow up email.

“I’ve worked for other editors who don’t give you a definite word count, who don’t email promised information for a fortnight or so and who ask you to write a story for a particular picture and then regularly send you the wrong picture,” she says. One of the worst experiences she has had was when one editor not only completely re-wrote every word she filed, but got it wrong in the process.

“I had to spend a hour or so arguing that a clipping was different from a cutting,” she recalls. She also notes other editors never acknowledge receipt of work they have commissioned. “You may have well pushed it into the abyss.” In contrast, Stewart says Roger communicates every facet of the brief to her. “He was very upfront about the limitations the layout would impose on the story,” she say, adding this stoped her pieces from being sliced, diced and turned into something completely different from what she filed.

Of infinite value to the freelancers who work for him is the fact Fox has been a freelance journalist himself. Fox knows first hand the frustrations of poor editorial planning.

“A typically vague brief is along the lines of “give me a story about the vineyards of the Hunter Valley” with no other information that that,” he says. “This is a time waster for everyone. Specific briefs give me wonderfully polished stories,” he explains. “All I have to do is give them a bit of a buff and then they go straight into the system.”

Back to top

Where the Wild Things are…

February ’08 – SundayLife Magazine

Images and layout copyright of Fairfax

Killer snakes, noisy possums and swarms of feral bees are just some of the creatures venturing into our backyards.

In cities of concrete, light and endless noise, sometimes it seems the only living creatures apart from our fellow human beings are cockroaches, bats and a few Indian Myners eating out of rubbish bins.

Our metropolises and suburbs are built for our wants and needs. Our homes are filled with cleaning products designed to provide sterile serenity. Anything out of control, like wild animals, surely roam elsewhere.

But despite all the roads and traffic and the locks on our doors, there are wild things in our neighbourhoods.

Swarms of feral bees visit a number of terrified householders in Sydney’s inner western suburbs throughout spring and early summer, while pool owners throughout Melbourne are surprised to find wild ducks parading their newly hatched chicks around the backyard.

“I think a lot of people love having something wild in the backyard, you know like a little blue tongue lizard that stops by every few weeks,” says Chris McGreal, a Sydney wildlife catcher who is called out to deal with reptiles, feral cats, birds, possums and rodents in Sydney’s north shore and northern beaches.

And while McGreal, 39, concedes there are situations where the wildlife must be moved and that some people just can’t stand animals, in his decade of experience most people are quick to replace fear with curiosity once they better understand their visitors.

Helen Dawson heard the call of the wild while she was sitting on her deck in her home in Sydney’s Dulwich Hill one Sunday afternoon in September.

“I thought it was kids skateboarding down the street at first,” she says of the zooming sound. As the noise got louder she turned around and realised there was a swarm of hundreds of bees entering her neighbours’ back yard.

“I ran inside and called my neighbour to warn them not to let their kids out,” recalls the aged care social worker. By this stage the bees had made their way into her yard and had formed a horrifying, writhing solid mass the shape of a large basketball.

She rang beekeeper Rod Yates while the alien mass settled itself under her rosebush arch.

“Rod told me to sit tight and that he would be there in two hours as he had other emergency calls to attend first,” says Dawson. “I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea there were so many feral bees around.”

When he arrived he gave Dawson a jar of honey and the choice of having the bees killed or captured, the second option being his preferred course of action.

“I produce honey at my home in Beecroft and distribute it to my clients to help them feel better about solving their problems sensibly,” says Yates, 58, who has been keeping bees since the age of 11.

Yates can field over 20 calls a day in the peak swarming season, which has occurred every year in late September since European settlers introduced honey bees to this country and some escaped from their boxes to become feral.

Dawson opted for the bees to be captured and asked if it was safe to come outside to watch him work. Yates advised her to wrap a towel around her head as bees are attracted to warmth and our heads are one of the warmest parts of our bodies.

With her homemade turban in place she watched Yates, who keeps both feral and domesticated bees at home and at his commercial honey factory, expertly shake the solid mass off the rose bush arch into a box which he then put into his truck loaded with other boxes and jars of honey.

“We are sitting on a gold mine in Australia when it comes to bees,” says Yates, who often uses captured feral bees to make honey to hand to his clients.

There are many breeds of native Australian bees, but they do not produce the sort of honey we are accustomed to eating. While feral European honey bees are usually physically inferior to carefully bred, domesticated bees, Yates is keen to point out that Australia is uniquely free of many diseases that affect the honey making ability of bees elsewhere in the world.

In Melbourne it’s ducklings that are the cause of about half of the city’s wildlife emergency calls throughout spring, with hatchings occurring up to late January.

“Ducks are lovely but not terribly brainy animals who think any old suburban pool is a great place to raise a family,” says Sandy Fernee from Wildlife Victoria.

Sometimes the ducks and their ducklings have to be relocated, but most of the time callers want to help struggling ducklings get out of the pool, a situation that is easily remedied by sliding a plank from the edge into the pool to make a duck ramp.

“It is common for a duck to return to a particular backyard pool year after year and for the people who live there to regard the duck as theirs,” says Fernee.

A less attractive but far more hidden part of Melbourne’s wild population are snakes. A large part of Melbourne has been built along the Yarra River, which is the natural environment for Copperhead and Tiger snakes. Despite office blocks and foot paths rather than bush lining the river these days, the Yarra is still very much home to these snakes, who have become expert at hiding from passing humans.

“They were here a long time before we were,” says snake catcher Stacey McCarthy, 29, whose husband Sean, 34 is also a snake catcher. Stacey has been a licensed snake catcher for several years, but has been capturing reptiles since she was a child, “much to my mother’s disgust,” she laughs.

She says the snakes are very shy and do not want to be seen by people, who they regard as big predators.

“No one in Melbourne is going to be considered as food by a snake,” says Stacey, adding snakes will usually attack only if they have been cornered and feel threatened.

Tiger snakes, the fourth most venomous snake in the world according to CSL Ltd, the modern incarnation of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, develop a taste for birds and rodents once their jaws become large enough to swallow such prey, so they venture into people’s backyards. However, Copperheads, the eleventh most venomous snake in the world, are less adventurous and tend to stay along the river.

She and Sean are called up to five times on sunny, warm days to remove Tiger snakes, or lizards people mistake for snakes, from people’s backyards, homes and other areas along the Yarra, including the CBD and inner city suburbs of Melbourne.

“There is often a note of panic in people’s voices, especially if the snake is in the house,” says McCarthy, who was called during the Australian Open this year to remove a Tiger snake from the Rod Laver Arena.

She says people sometimes take things into their own hands and kill the snakes themselves, which is dangerous as snake catching is essentially about cornering the snake, the situation where one is most likely to strike. Killing Tiger and Copperhead snakes is also illegal as the snakes are protected native animals.

Less frightening are the countless Bogong moths that fluttered around Sydney in October.

Most Sydneysiders have experienced the annoyance at finding the odd moth flying around the house or into their mouths, blown off course from their annual migration from the middle of Australia to the Snowy Mountains by strong westerly winds.

However, Sarah Chandler had a nightmare experience a few years ago when she was living in Hyde Park Towers in the heart of the city.

“I woke up in the middle of the night to find my doona cover and my curtains moving in the darkness,” the Sydney hairdresser remembers.

Hundreds of moths had travelled down the air conditioning ducts and settled in her room while she had been asleep. Once she switched on the light they all flew up towards the ceiling, circling the room and hitting her around her head.

“I screamed and ran out,” she says, adding she was so frightened that she slept the rest of the night in the building’s gym.

“That sort of experience is not overly common, but it does happen,” says pest controller Harold Kable, who is sometimes called out to office buildings where hundreds of moths have covered everything in a couple of rooms. Unfortunately, the only way of clearing such situations is to kill the moths by either pesticide or simply vacuuming them up.

Kable, along with Chris McGreal, also deals with possums, one of our most maligned native animals.

“There aren’t enough hollow logs in the suburbs to provide natural homes for them all,” says McGreal.

Because of this housing shortage, possums frequently decide to move in with us. People know they have possums in their roof space by hearing them or seeing possum urine soak through their ceiling.

Dealing with these uninvited houseguests is difficult. Possums can’t be relocated more than 50 metres from where they are caught as native animals have the right to be where they are found as a matter of law.

“All native fauna and flora is protected,” says McGreal.

Also, unskilful and unlawful relocation of caught possums usually means a slow and painful death for the animal. Possums are very territorial and don’t want newcomers to their patch, meaning relocated possums can be killed in fights or left to starve if successfully driven out by established possums.

As such, ethical possum catchers first have to work out where the possums are entering and exiting a building, block off the passages and then build a custom-made possum box on the roof to provide an alternative home for the animals.

All wildlife experts agree that finding a home for creatures as our cities and suburbs sprawl further along the coast and inland is an ongoing problem.

The experience of satellite suburbs in both Melbourne and Sydney is testament to this challenge as both have to deal with kangaroos hopping into places built for human occupation.

Fernee from Wildlife Victoria is constantly involved in capturing wild kangaroos, with one capture in November that was shown on TV throughout Australia and overseas by a news cameraman who happened to be nearby.

“It was just a routine job for us,” she said over her mobile phone the next day while sitting in a car jammed up against a hole in a fence through which another kangaroo had managed to squeeze in a northern Melbourne suburb. She was blocking the kangaroo’s escape while her colleges tried to catch it.

While the video of the previous day’s kangaroo capture might be seen as an amusing and exotic story, for wildlife experts it is a metaphor for the never-ending problem of how we cohabit with animals that white settlers introduced or that lived in our cities for thousands of years before we did.

According to Stan Wood, the chair of WIRES, a Sydney wildlife charity, not all wildlife disappears once we pour concrete over their natural habitat. Rather, by changing the environment, we simply change the sort of wildlife that lives there.

“Bigger birds such as magpies and Indian Myners have become dominant in Sydney as smaller birds have disappeared, and possums, which are very opportunistic, have also thrived in man made environments,” he says, adding the animals we come to regard as pests are simply those that have best learnt to adapt to our suburbs and cities.

“A large percentage of people think that wildlife is far less important than human life, but whatever we do to the web of life we do to ourselves. A lot of people don’t get that. ”

Back to top

Power Dressers

Images and layout copyright of Fairfax

You are what you wear – at least in the office, where good presentation pays off.

The idea that appearances count for a lot in the workplace is often met with denial and resentment. Even, it would appear, from those that pay image consultants to help them look better.

“I tell them, “Darling, I don’t make the rules. I’m just the messenger, so don’t shot me, ” says Jon-Michail, founder of Image Group International.

“Like it or not, this is the office environment and you better learn the rules of the game quickly. If you don’t you will be shark bait.”

Fellow image consultant Evelyn Lundstrom, director of Sydney firm First Impressions, has a different spin on the resistance, even hostility she encounters.

“A lot of us have university degrees these days, but there is still this arrogance, this chip on the shoulder that leads many people to think, “Well, I’ve got it from the neck up, why should I bother about the neck down?”

“I said to people, ‘If you were going to a good friend’s wedding, what would you wear?” And they come up with all sorts of things about how they would choose the right outfit as a show of respect. So I am left thinking “This is about your job, which supports your whole life style, so why wouldn’t you want to show the same respect when dressing for work?”

There are many reasons, be it resentment about having to spend large sums of money on work clothes and grooming, about not being judged solely on the quality of our work, the pressure to conform to a corporate image at the direct expense of individuality or a genuine disinterest in clothing, that make people bristle when confronted by clear rules about how they are expected present themselves at work.

Eighteen months ago the media had a field day with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s new staff dress guidelines, which included suggestions that women not wear shiny stockings because they made legs look fat, that men trim their nose hair, that those who wore spectacles buy a new pair every year and even they sort of bras women should buy.

There was a public outcry at the story, not least because of the expense modestly paid bank tellers were expected to bear to dress for their job.

But was the reaction also a railing of the fists at something we know to be true?
A study in the United States found that it pays, literally, to project a professional image. Judith Waters, a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, US, sent out identical CV’s with either a “before”, i.e. unkempt or an “after” i.e. highly groomed photographs of some hypothetical job applicants to over 300 US companies and asked them to determine a starting salary for each .The companies nominated starting salaries eight to twenty per cent higher for the applications sent with a photo of an applicant when well groomed compared to those accompanied by a photo of the same applicants before their make over.

“It’s not about political correctness,” says Jon-Michail.

“If you get the job because you are really good, even though you look sloppy, I can guarantee you that you are selling yourself at a discount.”

“People under sell themselves all the time,” says Lundstrom. “I have the most brilliant people coming to me concerned that their bodies might have changed, or their role has changed in life, like women who have been away from the workforce raising children.”

So what does it cost to look the part at work?

“You should invest about 10 percent of your annual income in your appearance,” says Jon-Michail, adding appearance includes grooming products and hair.

While he concedes most accountants might faint at such a suggestion, he thinks such spending is well worth it.

“Whatever your budget, it is important not to feel frightened or intimidated or embarrassed,” he says. “Even with a small budget you can create value”.

Jon-Michail says a professional image can be created within a budget of several hundred dollars, so long as the look is simple and classical without being fuddy duddy. But if you are earning $60,000 p.a., he thinks you should be spending $6000 on your appearance in one year and not trying to get away with less.

Men typically have to spend more than women when setting up a corporate wardrobe, especially once they are past the job seeker stage.

Both he and Lundstrom agree $1000 to $1200 is what men working in offices should expect to pay for a suit.

“That’s pretty reasonable considering it will be worn for about two to three years twice a week,” says Lundstrom, adding when men buy suits for $600 to $800 she hopes they are buying one of the good suits on sale.

“All men need to have three or four pure wool suits in the wardrobe,” she says. “Women need a lot more than that because the more colour you introduce into a wardrobe, the more combinations and options you need so as to not look you are wearing the same thing all the time.”

However, if a woman is happy to stick to subdued colours, she could get away with three or four good quality suits, a couple of business dresses and some jackets to go over the top.

“It depends on the personality of the woman.”

Such investments in work wardrobes certainly extend most people’s budgets, something Lundstrom does not deny.

“Setting up your wardrobe can be a bit scary for the first or second year, but by the third year a man may only need to buy four new shirts and a woman may only need to buy four new tops, one more suit and a new pair of shoes,” she says.

She says….He says…

Amal Ahmad, Small Business Entrepreneur

Amal’s outfits are not overly expensive. She spends $500 – $600 for each outfit, shirts and shoes included. However, she replaces her entire work wardrobe every six months.

“To do this I must have more than one suit and replace them quite often,” she says. “ I match theses suits with a really good quality shirt, which I keep very clean and crisp. It makes a big difference. I chose to do this than pay $1000 for just one suit.”

Amal is very disciplined with her spending and she only shops for new work clothes three times a year. She is also fussy with her shoes.

“If they have a scratch I don’t keep them,” she says.

Robert Kirby, Corporate consultant and organisational facilitator

Robert works with large organisations that are going through change e.g. mergers and getting executives to grow together.

“A lot of executives will pay $2000 – $5000 for a suit,” he says, adding that because he is a good shopper he will usually spend between $1000 – $1500 on a suit, $250 on a shirt, $250 for shoes and $150 for a silk tie.

His suits are classical in style and last for years. He rotates the five to seven suits he has for a particular season so that he is wearing a different suit every day of the week.
Robert also has found colour to be very important.

“I’m large, in that I am tall with big shoulders. If I wear a black Armani suit, which I have, sometimes people are intimidated. So I wear more teal, charcoal grey pinstripe and light blue or baby pink shirts,” he says, adding the softer colours make him appear and feel more personable.

“If I wear all power suits, people might be impressed by me, they might even be inspired, but part of them wouldn’t trust me. I’m interested in building long term business relationships, so I want trust first. “

Back to top

Fast Cars, High Society and Fraud

March ’04, The Weekend Australian Financial Review

Images and layout copyright of Fairfax

Karl Suleman raised millions and became the envy of his Assyrian community. But his lavish lifestyle was based on a stream of lies. 

In a Sydney courtroom in the rundown end of town, one of the city’s most infamous businessmen sat silently facing the jury of 12 ordinary men and women, people much like the ones from whom he had raised more than $130 million only a few years ago.

On Friday they returned a verdict of guilty on four charges of fraud committed by Karl Suleman, the man who used to have his company’s moniker, Froggy, written in the sky. This weekend, he is behind bars waiting to be sentenced early next month.

But as the man – who had his moments of fame as a consort of former US presidents and generous political donor – ponders on his future, out in Sydney’s western suburbs more than 100 families in the tightly-knit Assyrian community must wonder what happened to the life savings they entrusted with Suleman.

Did their cash go on a Ferrari or two or three, a BMW or maybe a yacht?

Details of the extraordinarily extravagant tastes of Suleman and his wife Vivian added some colour to the litany of dry dates and testimony from finance brokers and car salesmen in the two weeks of evidence at Suleman’s trial.

It took the jury only three hours on Friday to find him guilty of lying to finance brokers on four occasions to obtain funds for his ever-expanding spending spree, which included two Ferraris and a $3.3 million yacht.

Friday marked the last chapter in a four-year saga of how a one-time 7-Eleven store-owner briefly stood at the centre of Australia’s social stage and became the owner of 13 luxury cars, two yachts and a Cessna plane.

In September 2001, the business and social establishment marvelled at the unknown man at the side of Bill Clinton, the ex-President of the United States.

For three days Suleman sat next to, played golf with, flew in his private plane and ferried around on his boat the past leader of the free world.

Thanks to his marketing ploy of skywriting “Froggy” above Sydney for more than a year, the upper echelons Suleman was desperate to join had just begun to hear of him.

But this high-profile play did not come cheap. Suleman reportedly paid about $150,000 to host the Clinton table at a charity dinner for the Westmead Children’s Hospital. Two months later, Suleman was seen in the company of another ex US President, George Bush senior, at the Melbourne Club.

Members of his native Assyrian community, who number only 20,000 in Sydney, were exhilarated at how far the man had come.

But between the glamorous photo opportunities, an increasingly desperate Suleman was watching it all fall apart. Not long after he bade Clinton farewell, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission raided his home and the offices of Karl Suleman Enterprises, the company through which Suleman ran an investment scheme that many in the Assyrian community had invested in. That scheme, Suleman Investments, funnelled some funds into his internet service provider, Froggy, one of 18 companies Suleman was a director of.

ASIC discovered that Suleman Investments was an unregistered managed investment scheme. Suleman, who had been touting the incredible deal of around $3000 a month in interest on investments of $20,000 and above, similarly did not hold an investment advisor’s licence.

Only a fortnight or so after he hobnobbed with George Bush senior, more than 750 creditors of the two illegal investment schemes gathered in the humble surrounds of the Revesby Workers Club in Sydney’s south west. Both schemes had been placed into voluntary administration on November 12 by ASIC, two days after the regulator froze the assets of him and his wife.

The administrators quickly discovered the likelihood of investors getting their money back, let alone the fantastic rates of interest, had as much substance as the smoke in the skywriting.

What the administrators found was a $60 million hole, and almost total lack of financial records and around $20 million worth of assets. Later is would transpire that about $45 million had been paid to investors, but that this had been largely funded by money raised from other investors.

But none of this dulled his appetite for expensive toys. Suleman’s desire to add another Ferrari to his collection drove him to lie to two finance companies in October 2001. These actions constituted two of the four charges he went down on this week.

Another charge concerned a false bank statement claiming a joint account with his wife contained $14 million, while in fact it contained around $923,270. He used this false statement to gain $355,000 in finance from AGC for another Ferrari in December 2000.

The other charge concerned his desire to buy the $3.3 million Princess yacht the following March.

Finance broker Rowland Elster, who earned $100,000 for procuring a $2.3 million loan to help him with the purchase, told the court Suleman had told him he had $18 million in a bank account at the time. It turned out that Suleman had less than one-tenth of that sum.

Suleman’s high-profile friends have long deserted him. Mid last year the NSW Liberal Party was embarrassed to reveal it had received $35,000 in donations from the disgraced businessman after its federal director said the ALP was “morally obliged” to repay the $170,000 it had received the year before.

In July 2002, Suleman and his wife were ordered to pay more than $20 million in damages for their role in running the unregistered managed investment schemes. No criminal charges were laid against Vivian. Both filed for bankruptcy soon afterwards and Suleman was banned from managing a corporation for life.

But as Suleman’s barrister, Bruce Stratton QC, said last week, he was a “good catch” for finance brokers who earned a fortune in commissions from the Sulemans’ four years of extravagance.

In February 1998, Suleman borrowed $64,000 to buy a BMW Z3. The next month he borrowed $43,000 to buy another BMW. A year later he decided to buy yet another BMW, this time borrowing $75,000.

A month later, he borrowed $110,000 for a Mercedes-Benz. Later that year he bought his first Porsche, borrowing $120,000 of the $140,000 purchase price. That was soon followed by another BMW then, just in time for Christmas, his first Ferrari, borrowing the $205,000 purchase price.

The first half of 2000 saw him buy two more BMWs in his wife’s name. That December, he decided to really spend up big for Christmas, borrowing $585,000 to buy two more Ferraris, involving one loan which was the subject of last week’s fraud convictions, and borrowing a further $356,000 to buy a $465,000 Riviera motor yacht.

More cars, a Cessna private jet and the $3.3 million Princess yacht, the subject of another fraud charge, followed.

“As long as he gets his commission,” Stratton remarked in relation to one of the finance consultants who gave evidence. But sales commissions are all that remains of a remarkable lifestyle that is well and truly gone.

Back to top