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Panpa Bulletin : July 2006
July 2006 PANPA BULLETIN | 47 HISTORY Townsville Daily Bulletin manager Bill Ellis whether that company was prepared to amalgamate with the Dunn newspapers, in view of the threat from the metropolitan press. In April 1965 the Dunns took part in informal discussions about establishing a holding company to protect the interests of various independent provincial newspa- per companies. On May 24, 1965, stockbroker Alban A. Hale suggest- ed to Walter Bruce that a chartered accountant be appointed toinvesti- gate the project and determine "the financial strength of all companies, and the asset strength". Discussing the proposed holding company the following day, the Dunn directors were visited by the ghost of cau- tion and refused to supply balance sheets and accounts for the previ- ous two years. No action on the proposal fol- lowed for some months, but soon after Queensland Press Ltd. Chair- man D.S. Sherman announced, on November 26, 1965, that it had bought the Cairns Post through an exchange of shares, there was plen- ty of talk and, within two months, some action. At Bundaberg, Carl Nielson was worried by the Cairns takeover and wrote on December 5, 1965, to Walter Bruce and Mackay Mercury chairman Jack Manning. He sent the letter to Bruce, asking him to add his comments before forwarding it to Manning. "Haven't heard anything from you or Jack on the Cairns debacle," wrote Nielson. "The more I think of the deal, the more urgent some action is indi- cated. Don't you think that the fol- lowing suggestion could be a start- ing point?" Nielson proposed endeavouring to float a public company of the remaining independent provincial newspapers. He offered to drive to Brisbane to discuss the matter. Nielson said Rupert Murdoch had told him at a yacht race during Easter 1965 that he hoped to "break into Queensland". "By inference," Nielson wrote, "I got the impression he was think- ing of Townsville." Nineteen years later, Murdoch did buy the North Queensland Newspaper Co. Ltd (publishers of the Townsville Bul- letin), after a protracted tussle with Queensland Newspapers Pty. Ltd. News Ltd. directors were appointed to the board of North Queensland Newspaper Co on January 27, 1984.4 Walter Bruce replied to Nielson: "I would rather not send your letter and my comments to Jack [Man- ning]. The Australian Provincial Daily Press[Ltd.]inQueensland has entered into an era of apathy and complacency and until it receives a much needed 'shot in the arm' I am afraid that we are not competent to encourage takeovers. " On the same day he wrote to tell Bundaberg News-Mail general manager Roy Theodore of Nielson's letter. Bruce said Nielson's ideas had been "attempted 12 months ago but when it came to submitting Balance Sheets and Supporting Ac- counts to ascertain our combined strength, the majority of our mem- bers (including Cairns) decided against the proposal". Bruce foresaw a new era: "The old order appears to be passing and I think big newspaper companies are in a better position than A.P.D.P. [Australian Provincial Daily Press Ltd.] members to encourage takeo- vers. In any case, my opinion is that A.P.D.P. has not kept pace with the progress of this age. " Despite Bruce's views, the sale of the Cairns Post prodded Don Mor- ris into action. Morris re-opened discussion of the holding company proposal after informal talks be- tween interested parties in his of- fice on January 26, 1966. Those who backed the holding- company proposal saw the basic objectives as being, as far as pos- sible, to preserve both the existing independence of the provincial press and the status quo in regard to families, etc., and to provide for early listing on the Stock Exchange," Morris wrote. For some time before the even- tual merger, the shareholders in each of the companies had been concerned with the difficulties that arose when shares were to be trans- ferred because of death or other circumstances difficulties such as share valuations for duty purposes and sale purposes; finding suitable buyers, able and willing to pay a fair market price for the shares (both these would be overcome by Stock Exchange listing); and weaknesses when operating as separate units in industrial, political, marketing and administrative matters. The Dunn interests had previ- ously considered the listing of the A. Dunn and Co. Pty. Ltd. shares to overcome some of these difficul- ties. All the companies were repre- sented at the first formal meeting of those interested in the merger, but this soon changed. "Gympie, Townsville and Cairns decided not to take part in the merger negotia- tions." [Continued next month.] newspaper men writes Rod Kirkpatrick in the frst of a two-part series newspaper men Toowoomba Chronicle literary staff, 1928.