At the time of the fire Offset Alpine’s aging presses were worth about $3m, but following Rivkin’s secret purchase the company had been insured by Rodney Adler’s FAI Group for $53m, including a replacement value on the presses of $42m. Days before the fire FAI also became a substantial shareholder. Following the fire and FAI’s payout, which came in near record time, the share price rocketed, more than quadrupling from 65c when FAI bought its shares to $2.72 that when the company was sold two years later, giving an impressive return for shareholders.
The AFR reports that Rivkin, together with prominent businessman and current Qantas director Trevor Kennedy, and former federal minister Graham Richardson, were owners of a secret Swiss bank account, which held the 38 per cent stake. According to the AFR the trio used Swiss banking secrecy laws to prevent Australian authorities from discovering their identities.
During the mid 1990s Australian financial regulators tried for years to discover the owners of the bank account, without success. It is a requirement under Corporations Law that all shareholdings of more than five per cent be revealed, and it is also necessary for Australian residents to declare all foreign earned income. It is also prohibited to own more than 20 per cent of a listed company unless making a takeover bid. Rivkin and the other two may now face charges.
Rivkin had bought the printing company in 1992, using his Stroika business, which at the time was struggling with the downturn in the resources sector. Stroika paid $15.3m to Kerry Packer’s ACP for the business, changing its name to Offset Alpine, the reasons for the name now coming clear.
Offset Alpine today is owned by the Hannan family’s IPMG, and is one of the leading web offset printers in the country. In the last four months alone it has picked up three separate awards for print quality. At the time of the incident the Hannan family and IPMG companies had no relation whatsoever with Offset Alpine.
Of Rivkin’s two co-investors Graham Richardson is known as a Labour party fixer. He is no stranger to controversy, having resigned from Federal parliament in 1994 after a Queensland investigation into prostitutes and defence contracts, although he was cleared of any breaches a year later.
Trevor Kennedy, a former journalist on the AFR, is known for his high corporate and financial ambitions, and has been an investor in a number of projects over the years linked with former ACP people, with whom he worked in the early 1990s.
According to reports the beneficiaries of the Offset Alpine fire included the then governor-general Bill Hayden, TV personality Ray Martin, who together with his wife owned 183,000 shares, and even Rene Rivkin’s butler, who had managed to acquire 10,000 shares before the fire produced the unexpected windfall.
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