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Australia to Lift Bond's TV, Radio Licenses

June 27, 1989|From Reuters

SYDNEY, Australia — Australian businessman Alan Bond lost a three-year battle Monday when the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal ruled that one of the companies he controls is unfit to run the country's largest television and radio network.

The tribunal's rulings apply to companies, not individuals, but the tribunal left no doubt that its findings were aimed at Bond personally.

"We consider that he would not be found to be a fit and proper person to hold a broadcasting license," Tribunal member Kim Wilson said in a statement.

The ruling marked a low point in the British-born entrepreneur's career. Bond was Australia's hero when he won the America's Cup yachting race six years ago, but his fortunes have slumped, along with the stock in his companies.

Bond's ethics have been the focus of a yearlong inquiry into his $328,000 out-of-court libel settlement with a leading politician.

In a 14-page statement, the tribunal said Bond's acts could not be divorced from the broadcasting network of which he is principal stockholder.

The Perth-based millionaire, whose interests range from real estate to brewing, controls the Bond Media company through direct stock holdings and through his Bond Corp., which holds 52.8% of Bond Media.

Controls Many Stations

Bond Media controls six television stations, nine radio stations and a satellite TV service.

Alan Bond vowed Monday to fight the charges of deceit and impropriety. "I will pursue every avenue open to me to clear my name," he said after the tribunal issued its ruling.

Bond also has been struggling against claims that his flagship Bond Corp. is faltering under huge debts.

He suffered another, separate blow Monday as the Australian Stock Exchange suspended from trading his Bell Resources offshoot, citing his failure to supply enough information on a plan to sell Bond Corp.'s global brewing assets to Bell.

Australia's broadcasting tribunal, which has the power to suspend or revoke licenses, said it would allow two weeks for submissions from Bond and tribunal counsel before proceeding.

Attorneys for both parties expect the case to be referred to Australia's highest court, the Federal Court in Canberra.

Stocks in Bond Media, the company involved in the tribunal's ruling, and Bond Corp. have plunged on the allegations of impropriety. Listed in 1987 at $1.55 Australian a share, Bond Media slumped to 28 cents Australian at Monday's close, down 2 cents. Bond Corp. dropped 9 cents to finish at $1.01 Australian a share.

Deceit Claimed

In April the tribunal ruled against Bond on several counts, most of them linked to his settlement with the former premier of the state of Queensland, Sir John Bjelke-Petersen. The tribunal said Bond misled it during the inquiry and tried to disguise the agreement and payment.

"An attempt at such deceit, driven, as it would appear to be in this case, by expediency, does not exhibit qualities which we would expect to repose in the character of a fit and proper person," the tribunal said.

The tribunal also accepted evidence that Bond threatened a business rival at the powerful Australia Mutual Provident Society pension fund with bad publicity by using his "TV staff" to gather information.

"It is clear that one of the great risks for a person who controls such significant resources as television and radio networks is to misuse them," it said.

The tribunal, which heard evidence from 41 witnesses over 42 days, said Bond appeared unable to differentiate between commercial expediency and the extra responsibilities inherent in media ownership.

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