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It was supposed to be a clean auction — the highest bidder wins, simple. This was really important, because so many of the other privatisations had proved dirty, with the government negotiating afterwards. Treasury had assured us it would be clean this time. Richard Prebble, the SOE minister, was not supposed to get involved personally. But Preb being Preb, he set out to tweak our noses for some more.

We were called down to the SOE offices to find the Treasury guys with Prebble, who told us that despite the fact we were the highest bidder with no conditions they wanted more. In the circumstances it was my job to do the beating up. Everyone was bloody angry. The chairman of one of the companies had a former US Secretary of Defence with him, who immediately said that he would bomb the bastards for less than that.

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It was immoral conduct. We quoted all this back to Prebble, with some embellishment. So it went back and forth along these lines late into the night. The interest saved equalled the increase in price. It was a clean wash, but Prebble could show off a better price to his cabinet. I was thinking of the politics. So I knew that if I could get it up to that figure, it would put him in an impossible position. No one thought the government would receive as much. Gibbs and Richwhite were bolder.

The formal purchase agreement would be signed and sealed in September. Complaints were relegated to the political fringes. In a decade of deal making, this one had brought Gibbs close to heaven. Gibbs was cock-a-hoop. It had been a great team effort that combined the determination and deal-making brilliance of Gibbs with the breadth of talent and relationships that Richwhite had fostered at his merchant bank.

The world was indeed a sunny place for Gibbs in mid An earth-shattering event had taken place while he had had his head down crafting the Telecom deal; the Berlin Wall had suddenly been breached in November As the Soviet empire toppled, there could no longer be any debate that communism was a failed system; capitalism was triumphant. Gibbs was desperate to get over there to witness these fast-moving currents of human history first-hand.

A happy party, they set off in search of some of the curiosities of a dying system, while driving around in a dreadful, smoke-filled Trabant. Kerr was keen to see some real communist pollution. They found some at Bitterfeld, a chemical town about an hour out of Berlin, which boasted a lake that looked like pure oil. A spark would have set the place ablaze. The Gibbs wanted to find a genuine East European queue, in which it was fabled women would wait all day for the essentials of bread and fatty meat.

But less than nine months after the Wall had come down, Western goods had flooded into the market and much was available. Back in New Zealand, the formalities of the Telecom deal had passed smoothly. But almost immediately after the deal was sealed relations with Bell Atlantic and Ameritech came under strain. They were very irritable about the way the fee was calculated. Their advisers probably got beaten up when they returned to the US, so their reputations were on the line.

Gibbs found himself defending their fee at a negotiating session at the Halekulani Hotel in Hawaii. At times the process was seriously unpleasant.

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Once again, it was three or four New Zealanders across the table from a line- up of dozens of Americans. At the last session Gibbs tried a new negotiating technique. The big issues had been agreed, but 18 outstanding matters remained on the table.


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He feared they could drag on for another two days when he wanted to catch a plane home. I said, why not? Half the room was screaming it was cavalier; the other half was enjoying the fun. And since I knew the ones I really wanted, we gained a few points and gave away nothing of consequence.

It was a powerful beast, capable of cruising at 30 knots. With Dave Giddens and some of his usual yachting crew, Gibbs left Auckland at 2pm on a Thursday, refuelled at Gisborne at 2am, Friday morning, and arrived in Wellington at 5pm on Friday, flying the skull and crossbones.

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Serious Fun: The Life and Times of Alan Gibbs (Large Print 16pt)

But in New Zealand they did get blanks made which held plenty of gunpowder and made a decent bang. On a calm evening in Wellington Harbour Gibbs let one off; the explosion was followed by a cacophony of sirens. Gibbs had good cause for celebrating at the end of the With rapidly expanding cellphone networks, emerging possibilities for email and countless other technological innovations in store, the telecommunications industry offered no end of stimulation.

Heatley, 34, had been one of the stars of the s, having started out with a mini-golf course on Tamaki Drive. Casting about for something to do in , he started talking to someone who had a horse racing television channel in Australia called Sky. He came up with the idea of having a horse racing channel exclusively in DB pubs. When his Brierley colleagues passed on the opportunity, he followed it up personally.

When the government auctioned off frequencies on the relatively unused UHF band, Heatley and his business partner Terry Jarvis took three and prepared to launch Sky with three channels in May , starting in Auckland, the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. Most people thought they were crazy. He approached only two: the Todd family and the Gibbs and Farmer pairing, both of whom readily agreed to join him. Heatley had known Gibbs and Farmer for a while. I always thought of Alan as someone I could learn from. The gist of the report was that Sky would never attract more than , subscribers and would go broke trying.

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Gibbs and Farmer decided to invest anyway. Nor was Gibbs expecting to play much of a role in running or guiding the company. Tappenden had one seat on the board, with Trevor Farmer attending regularly. In the United States telecommunications companies were barred from investing in cable television, so New Zealand would provide an opportunity for them to explore potentially interesting synergies between the two industries.

Soon a consortium was drawn together comprising Bell Atlantic, Ameritech and two cable companies, Time Warner and TCI, and they began negotiating an appropriate price for 50 per cent of Sky. Gibbs was in his element. Once more, negotiations were held at the Halekulani Hotel in Hawaii. Heatley arrived first with his lawyer Roger Craddock and together they faced the usual cast of dozens of American executives and lawyers, this time representing four American corporations.

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A couple of days later Gibbs arrived, running late because of a delayed flight. There he found Gibbs stark naked jumping into the shower, wanting to be brought up to speed on negotiations so not a minute would be wasted. Daniel rated it really liked it Apr 25, Aaron rated it really liked it Jan 14, Roger Warren rated it liked it Jan 18, Mark Colley rated it really liked it May 27, Darryl Lundy rated it did not like it Jun 20, Rosemary rated it it was amazing Dec 17, Sue Dillon rated it really liked it Sep 16, Richard Jowsey rated it liked it Mar 02, Julia Vidor rated it it was ok May 30, Hayley Thow rated it liked it May 19, Rachel Neal rated it really liked it Feb 25, Jo Hamblyn is currently reading it Jan 11, Angela Biggar added it Aug 03, Ray added it Aug 26, Evan Anselmi-turner marked it as to-read Apr 26, Melissa added it Jan 17, Joya Kevey is currently reading it Feb 21, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

About Paul Goldsmith. Paul Goldsmith. Paul Goldsmith has written extensively about the lives of leading New Zealand businessmen and political figures, as well as about aspects of Maori history and politics. He lives in Auckland with his wife, Melissa, and their four children. Books by Paul Goldsmith.

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