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Star power dimmed on prized seats at the Open

Steady bookings for the 12 seats means about 30 per cent are still unsold, in line with previous years.

They tend to be bought by low-profile tennis fanatics and high-profile business executives, including a Shanghai businessman who flew in three years ago and scooped up six seats for the finals for his guests.

Russell Crowe and Alan Sugar.

Russell Crowe and Alan Sugar.Credit:John Shakespeare

No sign yet of singing superstar Kylie Minogue, whom CBD revealed had secretly returned to Melbourne and undertaken hotel quarantine to be with her family. She was last spotted with sister Dannii shopping at the Louis Vuitton shop at Crown.

Meanwhile, cantankerous British businessman and star of Nine’s upcoming Celebrity Apprentice Down Under Lord Alan Sugar will soon be gracing the Open with his presence, accompanied by none other than Oscar winner Russell Crowe.

The unlikely buddies were spotted playing tennis in December. Crowe is 56 and Lord Sugar is 73, but we can’t tell you who commanded the better court coverage on the day.

Invisible man

There were raised voices in Crown offices across Sydney and Melbourne on Thursday as the embattled casino group plotted the departures of chief executive Ken Barton and director Andrew Demetriou after calls for their resignation from regulators in two states.

But there is one person of interest who remains elusive – one-time Packer lieutenant Robert Rankin. The former Deutsche banker chaired Crown from 2015 to January 2017, during which time company staff were arrested in China. But he notably refused to front former judge Patricia Bergin’s probe amid general vagueness from the company and regulators as to his location.

But that hasn’t turned Rankin into a total recluse. He sits as a director of Charlie Aitken’s Sydney-based Aitken Asset Management Investment house, where he is registered to a rather grand-looking Old Rectory in the tiny English village of Broughton on the doorstep of the Cotswolds.

There was also a period when he was often spotted at colourful night spots in Hong Kong and Singapore. Until January last year, he sat on the board of the Melbourne-based Sargon Capital. It plunged into administration in April owing $100 million to a Chinese lender.

It’s a shame Rankin didn’t show for Bergin, considering James Packer and one-time colleague John Alexander and pretty much every other director indicated he had quite the story to tell. His tenure chairing Crown’s board included a boom in Crown’s organised-crime loving VIP business as well as the crisis in October 2016, when 19 staff across several Chinese cities were arrested.

The inquiry heard how Rankin had written to Barton telling him to be on “high alert” for regulatory action, including arrests in China, but the threat was never communicated to staff on the ground, nor to the rest of the board.

In his absence, Bergin drew her own conclusions calling Rankin “elusive” and his term as chair “clearly lacklustre”. “Although Mr Packer understood that Mr Rankin was a ‘specialist’ in matters relating to operations in China, he was sadly disappointed to find that Mr Rankin did not have such skills, or if he had them did not apply them to Crown’s operations in China,” Bergin noted.

There goes the Neighbour

This week the rest of Australia found out what many at the ABC had known for some time, that it is sometimes easy to dislike Four Corners executive producer Sally Neighbour.

As is the fashion at Aunty, Neighbour decided to join the commentariat and tweeted a comparison of Crown’s largest shareholder, James Packer, and departed Collingwood president Eddie McGuire.

“Uncanny similarities between these men. A lifetime of wealth and privilege. For decades, too powerful to be challenged. Finally brought low by their own actions.”

Even seasoned Eddie haters weren’t going to cop that.

Oceans of life experience separate Packer, a son and grandson of billionaires who went to the exclusive Cranbrook Grammar, and McGuire, who grew up in Broadmeadows, one of Melbourne’s most disadvantaged suburbs and won a scholarship to Christian Brothers St Kilda. After widespread condemnation, Neighbour then tweeted: “Correction to my previous. Replace ‘lifetime’ with ‘life’.” Perhaps a refresher course on the ABC guidelines on social media might be in order.

BBC lead

Or ABC managing director David Anderson and chair Ita Buttrose would do well to take note of the stance undertaken by BBC director-general Tim Davie, who said shortly after his appointment: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.”

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