Business Insider: Eric Watson’s new home, Grant Robertson’s next move, Adrian Orr’s loveless marriage idea

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Pent up in Pentonville

Eric Watson’s new home hasn’t exactly had the best reviews of late.

The former Hanover co-owner is detained in London’s Pentonville prison after being found in contempt of court for withholding information about his assets in the long-running legal battle with Sir Owen Glenn.

Watson was sentenced to four months in prison and could have received more time but the judge awarded some discounts for personal factors, including testing positive for Covid-19 and his relationship with his partner and children.

“I bear in mind the matters advanced by [Watson’s lawyer, Thomas Grant QC, Grant] on your behalf that you are a man with no criminal convictions, but that he cannot put you forward as a man of unblemished character,” Lord Justice Christopher Nugee noted in his sentencing judgment.

Pentonville men’s prison (aka “The Ville”) is one of England’s busiest local jails and boasts a number of notable former inmates, including musicians Boy George, George Michael and Pete Doherty. Oscar Wilde made an appearance in 1895.

The prison has earned a reputation as dilapidated, overcrowded and porous to drugs, mobile phones and weapons. It houses up to 1310 adults and young adults.

In March this year prison inspector slammed the facility, warning conditions have failed to improve despite pledges by managers after a damning report last year that gave it the second-worst rating possible.

In April this year, two prison staff reportedly died after suffering coronavirus symptoms.

During Watson’s sentencing hearing, Grant warned that Pentonville was mostly full of youths and gangs.

“I might say by way of aside, it’s difficult to envisage how Mr Watson, a 61-year-old man, will get on with gang-related youths incarcerated in this prison without any form of distraction or diversion or exercise,” he said.

He also suggested Watson’s young family would not be able to visit because they live abroad.

Watson’s partner Lisa Henrekson this week posted several photos on her Instagram, including one from Ibiza, Spain, with the caption “love this lifestyle”.

Minister of Light Rail?

It was no coincidence Grant Robertson dropped light rail into conversations during the election campaign, political insiders say.

Speculation is growing that Robertson will take responsibility for delivering light metro this term after the failure of Phil Twyford to make good on a 2017 election promise by Jacinda Ardern to have light rail running to Mt Roskill by next year.

Robertson has said the Government is still keen on the NZ Super Fund plan, which involves tunnelling from Wynyard Quarter, via the new Aotea railway station along the $4.4 billion City Rail Link, to Dominion Rd and from there above ground to the airport.

There will be something like 14 stops along the route, driverless trains every four minutes and the ride to the airport is said to take 32 minutes. There’s Government seed funding of $1.8b for the project and Robertson is open-minded about a public-private partnership using the Super Fund to fund the rest.

The project could make a “Super Man” of Robertson – or be a graveyard for the Wellington-based MP.

A loveless marriage

Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr has for months been calling for the banks to have courage in their decisions in the face of the uncertainty presented by Covid.

But he took it a step further this week telling financiers at the INFINZ online conference that he saw that courage as more like a marriage commitment.

“I think about standing at the altar – it’s about saying we are together through good times and bad, sickness and health. It’s about understanding each other’s risk appetite statement.

“You can’t have a risk appetite that just suits now and then – making excess profits in good times and saying see you later in bad. It’s about saying I am with you through time and we are maximising our profits without undue risk.

Orr obviously feels very strongly about the courage sentiment and said he defined it in a letter he wrote to all the CEOs and chairs of the banks in recent weeks.

But the Business Insider doubts there is much love between banks and their customers and there is bound to be some messy divorces next year when things turn south as the mortgage deferral scheme comes to an end.

Orr also appears frustrated over the lack of data he is able to get from the banks when it comes to their risk models.

“A lot of the challenge I’ve had to banks is to say articulate your risk appetite statement.

“Show me how that is transparent with the shareholders – they should be expecting lower returns in these times, with customers they should be expecting yes and no to their decisions and with the regulators around what risks are you taking, how are they necessary and important through time and how are you behaving to create a sound and stable institution. That data is still lacking, very poor.”

It must be highly frustrating to the governor that bank bosses expressed their worry about asset bubbles this week, yet the power to say no to higher-risk borrowers still lies in their hands.

Heartwarming fundraiser

As Auckland enjoys a window of Covid freedom, a scattering of corporate events are taking place again.

Auckland lawyer Peter Macky and partner Yuri Opeshko took their opportunity to invite various property, business and theatre interests to a preview of Rūrangi, a modern-day New Zealand drama film funded by NZ On Air. More than 150 turned up to the screening, described by The Insider as a beautifully-filmed heart-warming film.General release could happen by February.

Guests were invited to contribute to the Auckland Theatre Company’s 2021 summer school. Before the screening, Macky said his guests had already been incredibly generous and $18,000 of a target of $25,000 had been raised. The intent: to fund the tuition costs for all students attending the school this summer.

He spoke out strongly about the need to support teenagers from throughout the Auckland region to extend their theatre skills at an intensive week of workshops, rehearsals and training for 15 to 19-year-olds.

“We must foster the creative sector and we can do this collectively, this evening,” he said from the stage before handing the mic to film producer Craig Gainsborough-Waring, who introduced the feature film and thanked major investor Adrian Burr for his support.

Macky is also the man behind the audacious project to restore a historic German railway station about an hour out of Berlin.


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