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Wilson Neill deal to go ahead in spite of insider trading scandal

By Chris Hutching

Friday 1st December 2000

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COLIN HERBERT: Involved in a similar scandal to Mr Hyslop a decade ago
Wilson Neill's deal with Jump Capital is going ahead, in spite of the resignation of director Paul Hyslop after he confessed to insider trading allegations involving Fletcher Challenge shares.

Mr Hyslop announced the deal with Jump Capital in August and said it would unlock more than $20 million in value to the lucky shareholders involved.

Exactly why or how this would be achieved remains unclear.

The deal would result in Wilson Neill subsidiary Radionet being extracted from the company when Jump Capital takes a 28% stake, Wilson Neill retains 12% and 60% of the shares would be distributed to Wilson Neill shareholders.

Like most of Wilson Neill's deals it will be accomplished with an issue of shares. Jump Capital, whose shareholders include Sir Michael Fay and David Richwhite, would invest $10 million of new capital into the wireless communications business of Radionet ahead of its own secondary board listing, according to Wilson Neill chairman Dunedin-based Trevor Mason. Wilson Neill would be left with its interests in Auckland restaurant Iguacu, the Cobb & Co franchise with 23 outlets, and leases on the Avonhead and Camelot Court hotels in Christchurch.

As well as finalising the Jump Capital deal, the directors of Wilson Neill were due to discuss Mr Hyslop's resignation and their attitude toward his plans to stand for re-election at the next shareholders' meeting, possibly the special meeting to ratify the Jump Capital deal sometime in January or at next year's annual meeting in August.

"He's a good bloke and it's a shame it happened. We'll have to review the situation but we're not commenting at the moment," Mr Mason said.

The board would also consider a letter sent by Auckland shareholder Ian Andrews asking for an investigation into a surge in Wilson Neill shares at the beginning of the year when they peaked at 15c compared to the 6c they are trading at now. Mr Mason said he had been too busy to look at the letter and felt it was unfortunate Wilson Neill's name had been dragged into the insider-trading scandal involving Fletcher Challenge shares.

But the history of former listed Wilson Neill shareholder and director Colin Herbert's involvement in a similar scandal in 1991 when he made an out of court settlement means the spotlight remains focused on its dealings.

Mr Mason reiterated Wilson Neill is a different entity from the former listed company. The former Wilson Neill was placed in liquidation in the mid-1990s by US-based Leucadia National Corporation over a $NZ14.2 million loan guarantee for a San Diego property. It had a subsidiary called Saudi Corporation, which was permitted to continue trading and its name was changed to Wilson Neill Corporation.

The then 12,675 shareholders in Wilson Neill (in liquidation) were also issued with new scrip in the new Wilson Neill Corporation resurrected by Dunedin chartered accountant Mr Mason who was previously with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu until he set up his own practice in the 1990s.

But Christchurch-based Mr Herbert, officially a "consultant," has retained close links with the new company.

A few months ago he made an unsolicited phone call to a National Business Review journalist who he believed was investigating the company's activities in relation to its Cobb & Co franchise.

Mr Mason confirmed Mr Herbert is closely involved but he described him as a consultant he uses for special projects.

"Mr Herbert occasionally seeks out deals and puts them to the board for consideration," Mr Mason said.

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