We did say it doesn’t take much to set Gerry Harvey off.
While he didn’t call for anyone to be hung, stripped and flogged, as he did this column’s Joe Aston a year ago, Harvey’s behaviour at Tuesday’s packed Harvey Norman AGM in Sydney still left plenty to be desired.
Take his dealings with the Australian Shareholders Association monitor Pamela Murray-Jones, who represents the very small shareholders Harvey claims to prefer on his register (presumably because they’re easier to take advantage of in capital raisings).
Harvey’s son Michael, on the board since 1993, was up for re-election. So Murray-Jones asked the obvious question: how he manages the conflicts of interest his position puts him in.
He responded by affirming his independence. “That’s the rule in this family.” After which his father added: “It might be different in your family, lady.”
Charming. Said “lady” responded by reminding the board her name was Pamela. As they probably already knew, given she’d been corresponding with the company about ASA member concerns for some time. Later, Harvey disparaged the ASA to The Australian as “nobodies” who “don’t represent anyone”.
After the AGM, this newspaper’s Sue Mitchell approached Harvey seeking to ask him about the first strike against the company, as well as the better-than-expected store sales the company had released that morning. A veteran reporter, she’s known Harvey for two decades. Not that that engendered any decorum. He told her to piss off.
Such behaviour may explain why women are not flocking to Harvey Norman’s board. It has only one woman, being Gerry’s wife and Harvey Norman chief executive Katie Page.
On matters financial, the ASA had turned up wanting to know why loans owed to directors from Harvey Norman were listed at $46 million on June 30, 2017 in the FY18 annual report, but only at $36 million on that same date in the FY17 annual report. Both audited, we should add. Finance director Chris Mentis was halfway through explaining the change was because some new entities where included when his chairman interrupted, calling on Murray-Jones and former ASA rep Allan Goldin to “say something nice” instead. Go figure, but they didn’t manage to get to the bottom of that issue.