Partner, Corrs Chambers Westgarth; chair of public securities group, co-chair of China practice group and Corrs’ national legal excellence partner
What was your first-ever job?
Picking potatoes in my home town of Yass in rural Australia.
Where did you study?
Bachelor of Arts, Macquarie University (1984)
Bachelor of Laws, Macquarie University (1984)
Where did you train?
With former Corrs partner Andrew Stevenson, which was known as at Corrs or as it was back then Westgarth Baldick.
Have you lived or worked outside your home jurisdiction? What did you learn from it?
When I was living and working in the USA in New York. While I was there I learned that there are no stupid questions. If you don’t understand something – ask. It might not be you don’t understand the subject matter, it may be the person talking doesn’t understand what they’re talking about.
When did you become partner?
What deal/case in your career stands out the most and why?
The deal that most stands out for me is the would be the acquisition of Melbourne Airport from the Commonwealth in 1 July 1997. The deal was incredibly complex involving the grant of a 50 year lease, with an option of a further 49 years over Melbourne airports to my client Australian Pacific Airports Corporation. The sale of these lease was the first stage of the planned privatisation of the 22 Federal airports previously owned and operated by the Federal Airports Corporation (FAC). We bid for a number of the airports. The sale of the three airports represented the culmination of the first phase of a sales process initiated in April 1994. It was an iconic transaction that was the culmination of more than four years work.
What have been your recent deals?
- Advising Whitehaven Coal on Nathan Tinkler’s $5.25bn buyout offer for Whitehaven Coal.
- Advising Whitehaven Coal on the all scrip merger-of-equals with Aston Resources Limited and its simultaneous acquisition of Boardwalk Resources, to create a leading independent coal producer. The merger was valued at approximately $6 billion. Whitehaven will become one of the largest ASX-listed coal companies by market capitalisation resources and reserves.
- Acting for Bauer Media Group in its acquisition of 100% of ACP Magazines Ltd from Nine Entertainment Co. ACP is Australia and New Zealand’s largest magazine publisher, reaching over 15 million Australians each year. ACP’s major brands include The Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day, Cleo, Take 5, TV Week, Australian House & Garden, Gourmet Traveller and Zoo.
- Acting for Zhengyuan International Mining Co., Ltd and China Metallurgy Bureau, in a significant equity investment in an Australian uranium explorer.
- Acting for Republic Gold in the sale of Amayapampa Gold Project in Bolivia to LionGold Corp.
What is the biggest challenge facing your market at the moment?
The biggest challenge facing the lawyers in M&A is the growing demand from clients for “more hands on” approach from senior lawyers in the team and a growing reluctance to accept a more highly leveraged service model. This will challenge many firm’s business models. For me it’s a welcome change and I like being part of a team with my clients, providing hands-on service to meet their needs and goals. Understanding their objective and finding ways to get there that are both practical and affordable.
What has been the most significant development in your sector in recent years?
The most significant development in regulated M&A in recent years has been the huge success of the Takeovers Panel. In the nearly 12 years since it was established it has stamped its authority on regulated M&A in Australia in a way that could barely have been hoped for at the time it was established. The Panel has transformed practice in the area. I only wish the government would extend the scope of this brave experiment to other areas of our securities regulation.
If you hadn’t been a lawyer, what would you have been?
Which country do you travel to most frequently and which country do you like the best?
China. I have been to each of Bhutan and Tibet only once but I would like to think I can get to both again sometime soon. That said, there’s no place like home and the wonders of Australia constantly draw me to travel here. This Christmas I’m off to the Freycinet National Park in Tasmania.
What is your favourite book?
Alice in Wonderland.
What is your favourite restaurant?