Bob Jones: Desperation and insanity

How long does NBR have?

Rumours are swirling about National Business Review’s financial plight but it’s hard to feel sympathy for its owner Todd Scott. He’s behaved abominably to too many people and being under a strain is no excuse. It’s reputedly payment up front now by his printers while renewals for the new cost-cutting driven, heavily reduced pages version are said to be in free-fall. That’s unsurprising as many subscribers wrote to me after his appalling failure to go to bat for my innocuous column this year, saying they would not be renewing.

But this takes the cake. Earlier this year the always readable Matthew Hooton wrote an article about Steven Joyce. As occasionally with Matthew’s contributions, it was crazily over the top. I don’t know Joyce but said at the time it’s my pick he will not turn the other cheek, and so it’s proved. For Steven pursued a libel action against both Hooton and NBR. To his credit, Matthew acknowledged his article was outrageous, openly apologised and forked out a large sum to Joyce.  

But NBR, in dire financial straits, can’t pay and in an action of unprecedented foolishness, is now suing Hooton, ignoring the inconvenient fact that they accepted and approved the article. That’s not just desperation, it’s insanity as it’s absolutely doomed to fail. Aside from that, NBR’s still liable anyway.

There’s a personal background irony to this. A few years ago I told Herald editor Shayne Currie, that I needed a break from my weekly column. As I was their top-polling item in the regularly surveyed paper, naturally he wasn’t happy. But he would have been specially irked to see me then pop up in NBR, a switch from the nation’s largest circulation newspaper to it’s smallest.

This arose when Scott, who I didn’t know, phoned to ask whether I would swap office space for advertising. For good reasons we would never allow journalists in our buildings but I didn’t say that.  A long conversation ensued as Todd outlined the background, to him, a non-journalist, taking on a newspaper. When he told me what he’d paid my antenna went off as it seemed excessive. But, I admired his pluck so said to help out I’d write for him free, which was a huge nuisance to me.

Thereafter he’d periodically confide on the phone over diverse issues he faced. Additionally, he often wrote saying how much he loved my columns and how grateful he was. In the light of this background, his subsequent behaviour over the mad Maihi woman’s activities was despicable. Specifically, he told the media I’d been booted out by a staff vote. The truth emerged the following week, specifically that he’d advised the staff of NBR’s plight and the necessity for a smaller paged edition and they’d chosen who to drop. So out went Hooton as he was costly, out went 85-year-old Dr Bob Brockie their cartoonist almost since NBR’s foundation, who was also paid. Bob, in retirement, keeps himself alert by writing a lively weekly science column for the Stuff newspaper and sets aside Fridays for his NBR cartoon. Out went my favourite NBR contributor, their long time media commentator David Cohen, whose efforts were always a delight.

There was a time when NBR ran a feature targeting the advertising industry. But as NBR ad’ placements disappeared they understandably scrapped this, but not before a crazy public tirade from Scott about what rogues they are, wanting commissions for their work.

The very last thing I wanted to do was write a weekly column, the reason being I’m busy writing a series of novellas. But not a word of thanks from Scott. So here’s the irony. Had he not behaved so atrociously I’d have written a cheque in return for say a half partnership. I’d have done this, not as an investment (I can think of no worse one) but to help someone I admired because he’d worked damned hard.

On a happier note, I’m delighted to report that my libel writ has been served on Maihi. Now it’s my turn.

Dompost doomed with tabloid trashiness

Talking of the media, Wellington’s Dominion-Post, now in tabloid form and almost totally lacking actual news in its contents, continues to entertain with its ludicrous front pages.

One a week ago ran two items. One half regurgitated an account of an old bloke’s death a year back after his car was hit by an army vehicle due to its driver’s unfamiliarity with its foot pedals. The apparent point was to say the unfortunate deceased chap’s friends are still upset. That’s front page news!

But the other half was truly amazing. It showed a large photo of a grim looking burly bloke wearing a wig and dress. Why? It transpired he was upset as a women’s only gym had declined him membership. He freely admitted to having the full male genital kit but apparently he (and the Dom’s mediocrities) couldn’t see why this was a problem. We can and I certainly do, sympathise with folk who feel they belong with the opposite gender, but in turn, they must show some common sense with circumstances such as this. To make this absurdity front page news belies belief.


Articles by Bob Jones are usually for silver and above subscribers. This article has been published outside of that because of the interesting insights regarding NBR, the news that Bob has filed a libel actions against film-maker Renae Maihi for her defamatory comments regarding him and his wry notes on what constitutes news at the Dompost.

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Sir Robert ‘Bob’ Jones — now New Zealand’s largest private office building owner in Wellington and Auckland, and with substantial holdings in Sydney and Glasgow, totalling in excess of two billion dollars — is a property investor, author and former politician, who has written fiction as well as books on property investment, selections of his newspaper and magazine columns, and reminiscences of former prime minister Robert Muldoon.

While at Victoria University of Wellington, he earned a ‘blue’ in boxing and contributed to a boxing column in the university’s newspaper Salient. A multi-millionaire, Jones earned his wealth through investments in commercial property via his company Robt. Jones Holdings Ltd. He founded and led the New Zealand Party in 1983. In 1989 he was made a Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and in received the New Zealand 1990 Commemorative Medal.

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