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Retired banker to sponsor Walkleys -

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Retired banker to sponsor Walkleys

The World Today - Thursday, 4 September , 2008 12:28:00

Reporter: Peter Ryan

ELEANOR HALL: There's been a new twist in the stand-off between Fairfax Media and its journalists
who are fighting plans to slash 550 job cuts across the troubled publishing empire.

A retired investment banker has stepped in to sponsor part of journalism's highest awards, the
Walkleys, after Fairfax dumped its involvement over last week's budget cuts.

Former Macquarie Bank director John Green has been telling our business editor Peter Ryan that he's
putting up $16,000 a year for a newspaper feature writing award.

JOHN GREEN: Fairfax Newspapers have come into my home ever since I was a child, every day. And I
was flabbergasted when I saw that the management of Fairfax were going to withdraw their support of
the Walkleys, which is really the pinnacle of journalistic achievement in Australia. I couldn't
believe it.

PETER RYAN: You've jumped in to sponsor the newspaper feature writing award, one of the key
categories that Fairfax has abandoned. But why is this so important to you?

JOHN GREEN: I think what's really important to me is that companies are seen to do more than focus
on short term cost cutting, that they really need to have a think about long term value creation.
And part of that, which is clearly in shareholder interests, is playing a role in managing to
support the industry that you're in, the communities that you're in and the staff that work for

So when Fairfax pulled out of the Walkleys, it just seemed to me that actually this was either
short sighted or a mistake and that I wanted to do something which would encourage them to change
their mind.

PETER RYAN: So you're hoping your sponsorship will in some way pressure the Fairfax board to
reconsider its involvement in the Walkleys?

JOHN GREEN: I'm hoping that our sponsorship will encourage them to come back rather than pressure
them. I think that in the cold light of day, they might look at this and say, the Walkleys are a
very, very important part of journalism in Australia. Fairfax is Australia's oldest media

And indeed they recognise the importance of the Walkleys and industry recognition for their
journalists in their own annual report. I had a look at it this morning and their last annual
report has six pages under the heading of how Fairfax is ahead of the pack and how their
journalists are recognised for excellence by their peers and mentioning the Walkleys 21 times.

So if they think it's important enough to tell their shareholders how well their journalists are
doing, it seems to me that it's important enough for them to support the foundation that actually
gives those awards, just as their competitors do.

PETER RYAN: Have you had a chance to talk to the Fairfax CEO David Kirk or the Fairfax board about

JOHN GREEN: It's not my practice to either contact other companies or speak about other companies'
internal affairs, but this case is really special and so what I chose to do was write to the
chairman of the board, telling the board what I was proposing to do and urging them to reconsider
their decision and to re-sponsor the Walkley awards.

PETER RYAN: Investment bankers and businessmen such as yourself are often driven by the bottom line
and other factors, but do you think shareholders put profits before quality? Is there a balance
that can be achieved?

JOHN GREEN: It's very short sighted in my view, when companies look to the short term bottom line
without having regard to long term shareholder value creation.

ELEANOR HALL: That's former Macquarie investment banker John Green speaking to our business editor,
Peter Ryan.