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Oz to probe Powers move

To investigate possible breach of cross-media rules

SYDNEY — The Australian Broadcasting Authority decided Monday to investigate whether the cross-media rules have been breached by the appointment of Brian Powers, a close associate of Kerry Packer, as a director of publishing group John Fairfax.

Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. (PBL) announced Monday that Powers had stepped down after five years as exec chairman of the TV and magazine empire and as CEO of Packer’s privately-owned Consolidated Press Holdings, which owns 45% of PBL.

James Packer, the tycoon’s 30-year-old son who has worked in the Packer group since 1986, was elevated from chief exec to exec chairman of PBL and CEO of CPH, in a long-anticipated succession.

As part of the new management team at PBL, Nick Falloon, 40, a 16-year company vet, was named CEO.

Powers, a U.S.-trained lawyer and former investment banker, disclosed he intends to buy 14.9% of the units in the Fairfax Trust from CPH, and the Fairfax board announced it had appointed Powers as a director. The Fairfax Trust owns just under 15% of Fairfax.

Kerry Packer has long wanted to buy Fairfax, his longtime adversary, but is prevented by the broadcasting law that prohibits broadcasters such as Packer’s Nine Network from controlling newspapers in the same capital city markets. “Control” is deemed to exist when a company or individual owns more than 15%.

Packer senior, who is chairman of CPH and a non-exec director of PBL, has lobbied successive governments to amend the cross-media rules.