FALLING: Star News Group's multi-million dollar debt mountain explains corrupt coverage

starnewslogo Local residents in the Casey municipality have been puzzled at the quality of the coverage of the third wheel in local newspapers, the debt-ridden and ailing Star News Group.

While Fairfax and News Limited owned publications there appear to be fair and balanced, the Star News rag is considered to be little more than a mouthpiece for beseiged Casey CEO Mike Tyler who presided over the poisoning of thousands of local residents in Brookland Greens estate by potentially lethal methane and other gases from a municipal tip within Tyler’s responsibility.

starnews In this week’s edition, their self-styled “chief of staff” Elizabeth Hart, a PhD candidate and regional university academic who ironically teaches journalism ethics to a puzzled few, has written a passionate front-page defence of the infamous Tyler, who is one of the best paid council CEOs in the state while appearing to hold no qualifications for the job and managing to avoid interviews for the job despite being re-hired a couple of times.

Council insiders believe that Council telephone records show an astonishing amount of telephone traffic between Mike Tyler and his council high command and senior figures within the shadowy and little known local news chain. Fingers are particularly pointed towards that of Star News columnist Jim Mynard, who once notoriously tagged along a Casey Council junket, enjoying lavish hospitality in return for slavishly obedient copy in a “Trip for Tributes” scandal.

VEXNEWS has learned that while there are three local newspapers operating within the municipality that the Casey CEO refuses to split any of the council’s considerable weekly ad spend with the News Limited or Fairfax owned competition. For at least the past two years, all of the council’s advertising has gone to the Star News Group.

Local government observers have expressed concern over the arrangement, with one saying “It reeks of favouritism, doesn’t it? I don’t know of any council that would dare advertise in only one of its local newspapers, normally they share it around a bit, for appearance’s sake. It must be pretty dodgy down there.” Indeed it is.

Casey council’s “community directory” claims that there is only one local newspaper in the municipality: There is one result found in News & Postal Services / Newspaper. You guessed it, the Star News Group.

There is a good explanation for Star News being concerned about a changing of the guard at the Casey council, whether triggered by angry local residents or corruption investigators at the Ombudsman’s office. They are desperate to hang on to the revenue. Very desperate as it turns out.


VEXNEWS has been told by Star News insiders that the company is “staring down the barrel” of a serious debt crisis.

Once a reasonably pedestrian although quietly successful Berwick based local newspaper company founded by Ian Thomas, under his son Paul Thomas’s management the company dramatically expanded during the recent boom.

The heir Paul Thomas lives in the leafy suburb of Glen Iris, many kilometres away from the company’s base in Pakenham.

Star News Group or South East Newspapers – as it was – acquired the Geelong Independent newspaper, regional newspapers and spent a fortune expanding throughout the western suburbs of Melbourne. It was a debt-fuelled spending binge of the kind that once had plasma screens flying out of Harvey Normans across the country.

westpacstamps Documents obtained by VEXNEWS reveal that a Paul Ian Thomas of the Star News Group agreed to a bank charge over $7.6 million assets of the company. We understand that Thomas’s company has borrowed nearly the full extent of this under their facility with the Westpac bank. We are also advised from a source within the company that they have recently refused an extension of this facility.

While interest rates are coming down, ad revenues are crashing, particularly for poorly run newspapers. News Limited’s realestate.com.au continues to benefit from the migration of most real estate advertising to the superior online environment.

Our publication, launched on August eighth but inheriting a loyal readership of OC readers on which we have built, has considerably more – independently verified – web traffic than the combined mastheads of Star News Group which are merged into one site.

It is not – we are told – secured on a printing press (they don’t own one – they outsource all printing) or real property. The bank’s charge is on some rather generously valued mastheads. Valuations based on a pre-crash level of real estate advertising.

In a firesale situation, given there are usually two competitors owned by Fairfax and News in most markets in which Star operates, some say the value of many of these deeply indebted mastheads is practically zero.

It’s enough to make you wonder whether Casey council should continue to prop up this ailing enterprise with its exclusive advertising arrangement. Certainly competitors in the News Limited owned Leader and Fairfax Community Newspapers will be keen to take up the slack if and when Star News Group collapses under the combined weight of debt and cash for comment scandals.



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32 responses to “FALLING: Star News Group's multi-million dollar debt mountain explains corrupt coverage

  1. Anonymous

    What about some casey news

  2. eddy groves

    sounds gr8

  3. Anonymous

    Congratulations Vexnews, the greatest source of news on the web. You have achieved a real scoop.

    Heads down to Casey Council and it’s senior staff who don’t deserve any accolades.

    The debt crisis of Star News is a pity, but they bring it on themselves in dodgy deals with suburban councils of low quality, like Casey.

  4. Cameron

    At My place in the Western Suburbs I regularly receive the Star and they never have council advertising. The Leader has ever skerrick of council advertising. It was the same when I lived in the Northern Suburbs as well. It doesnt’ seem unusual for papers to have advertising deals with councils. Maybe I’m wrong but I thought this was happening all over Victoria

  5. Avid Reader

    Interesting to read this article. I have been a avid reader of Star News Papers, however reading recent articles, I can’t help but think how biased these articles have been. Newspapers should be totally balanced in their reporting, and the Star News Group in the past was no different. Unfortunately, over the past 12 months, things have dramatically changed, possibly due to the constant flow of journalists through the doors. I hope Mr. Thomas reviews his current staff’s performance as in speaking to many locals as i do, this paper is the last to reach our letter boxes but the first to end up in our bins.

  6. matt

    Funny that you talk about the star in the west!!
    There journo’s are strongly linked to the green’s and lefties’ they are very biased!!
    Expose the pricks!!!

  7. Anonymous

    Bankruptcy awaits for Star. Usual process is administrator, liquidation, bankruptcy.

  8. Cameron

    Matt, I don’t understand where you pull this allegance with the greens and lefties from. Thats the Age and their community weekly offspin the Melbourne Times. I always found Star to be staunchly against incumbents of any persuasion. Based on my experience with Star papers in the West, I don’t think there’s much in this story except for an exclusive advertising deal with a controversial council. These deals benefit papers that are not involved with Star News Group all over Melbourne. If the papers do fold as this article suggests, Melbourne’s suburbs will be all the poorer.

  9. Anonymous

    “All white people must report to the cotton fields tommorow at 6:30am, for orentation. Thank You. -Barack Obama”

  10. eddy groves

    I would like to see a proper audit of Star group distribution. Pitcher Partners might be available.

  11. politicks

    The Thomas family are conservatives but I don’t see that this is the point Vex is making.

    They are saying Mike Tyler has bought them off. And that appears to be true. I think the Ombudsman should be called in to look at this.

    Boycotting other newspapers, failing to even list them in a community directory and launching attacks on those who want a new CEO doesn’t past a smell test.

    If we were in WA the Crime and Corruption Commission would already be onto this.

  12. have a hart

    I studied under Madam Hart, snooty cow.

    Not worth a cracker as a journo. Those who do, do, those who can’t, teach.

    Little wonder she’s got her employers in the shite.

  13. Cameron

    You guys are deadset pulling yourselves. YOu’ve got carried away by the ravings of a lunatic with nothing more than an agenda and a questionable fax that shows the Star Group is worth at least $7,600,000 in assets alone. Where’s evidence of this mountain of debt? Apply the same scrutiny to the relationship between otehr community papers and their councils and you will see that Star is probably the least council aligned news group in Melbourne. Come clean, Andrew. WHat has SNG done to you or your mates?

  14. John

    Cameron, you are obviously a Star News Group employee using an abbreviation like SNG! If you are a staffer of the ‘SNG’ you would well know how much money the Star news group makes out of the Casey Council, or if you don’t perhaps you should ask questions. Compared to the other two, more professional local papers, this Council guarantee’s nothing negative appears about this council, except for a couple of outcast councillors. It is disgraceful, nothing more than CASH for COMMENT

  15. Cameron

    I don’t work for SNG nor have I ever but after typing three words four or five times in one day I felt I would abbreviate. Neither have I ever seen a copy of the Casey Star.
    I was merely pointing out that the practice of publishing advertising on behalf of clients that happen to be councils is common place. Generally in Melbourne it is not Star that has these contracts though and I don’t see why you are singling out SNG.

  16. Lunatic Landy

    Landeryou is singling out the Star, without a scintilla of evidence mind you, because they write stories that don’t fit his ultra-conservative psycho lala-land view of the world.

  17. SNGED

    SNG is in deep sit.

  18. Anonymous

    “All white people must report to the cotton fields tommorow at 6:30am, for orentation. Thank You. -Barack Obama”

    hahaha funny one.

  19. Anonymous

    Anon says: “Star Group is worth at least $7,600,000 in assets alone”.

    Yeah and Leahmann Bros had some 800billion in assets and see how they went.

    No doubt like Lehmann, SG books are cooked.

  20. Anonymous

    Perhaps theres a bigger issue here – see below – its sickening

    6th November 2008 02:07:44 AM (Star Cranbourne)
    WEARY methane gas affected property owners face another blow as a News investigation reveals that banks have mortgage blacklisted properties within two kilometres of the estate.

    The dilemma comes one week after the CFA announced it was safe for residents to return to their homes after the emergency status at the Cranbourne estate was downgraded.

    Bank insiders have confirmed widespread rumours among local real estate agents that banks are not approving finance for houses within a two kilometre radius of the estate.

    The News has been told that two major banks in Cranbourne were not approving finance because they were worried about the risk to properties in and around the estate.

    The decision leaves homeowners unable to sell their properties as would-be buyers are unable to get a mortgage on the affected homes.

    If they are unable to sell their properties, homeowners are also left paying mortgages on properties that are of little resale value.

    The latest blow comes on an already depressed housing market.

    The Cranbourne Chamber of Commerce will meet City of Casey council representatives today (Thursday) to discuss the problem.

    LJ Hooker Cranbourne real estate agent Paul May said all but one of the estate’s houses which were for sale have been withdrawn and that there had been no interest in the one that was still for sale.

    “I would think that the methane has been negatively affecting all agents, home owners, and tenants.”

    Isnt this the real story? Here, at the end of 2008 in Australia, we have a situation where hundreds of people’s equity in their homes is suddenly zip because of

  21. the tiler

    I’m so screwed once the Ombudsman starts probing me.

  22. anus

    That is the best picture I have ever seen of TYLER. He is the shiftiest, underhanded, manipulative, pathetic attempt of a human being who has cost the residents of the City of Casey millions of dollars in lost revenue. Not to mention how he frequently took cash payments from developers several years ago and only recently stopped when he nearly got caught. How else could this overpaid, under-qualified thief afford a huge holiday house in the luxurious part of Phillip Island? Its amazing how far the Liberal Party, led by the Queen of dirty tricks, the fat useless, Inga Peulich, who is hated so much by her own party that she will be tossed out at the next round of pre-selections is prepared to go to protect this crook.

  23. Cameron

    Anus you’re a very clever guy…posing the question ‘how could this overpaid….thief afford a huge holiday house’. I think the word overpaid probably answers it.

  24. Lee Deyetum

    Mischief or mistake?

    “Casey council’s “community directory” claims that there is only one local newspaper in the municipality: There is one result found in News & Postal Services / Newspaper. You guessed it, the Star News Group.”

    That’s true – technically. However, a whole-site search on the Casey Council webpage does bring up Fairfax (3 mastheads) and Leader (News Ltd – 2) as well as the Star News Group – altho both are listed below SNG.

    But hey, why let the facts stand in the way of a good story?

  25. Anne

    SNG has an allegiance with the greens and lefties?? What BS.
    For fuck’s sake, get your facts straight.

  26. anonymous

    Notwithstanding the reports of these financial debts (the rumours are nothing new, of course), as a journalist of the Geelong Independent, I can assure everyone that this particular newspaper, which is owned by Star News Group, is not or ever has been politically aligned to a council or one side of politics. Like most good newspapers, news stories usually push against the incumbents, whether they be left or right wing, to ensure they deliver on what they promise.

    Furthermore, councils are good fodder for news stories because they spend ratepayers’ money and, according to most people, not very wisely. It’s all about writing stories that people want to read. So at no stage, has my editor told his staff to ‘go easy’ on council or, for that matter, on any possible news story out of fear of losing advertising revenue. For our Casey adversaries to allegedly do this, would be out of character at the Independent and it’s never been an instruction from Star management, either.

  27. Anon Annonski

    Local councils spend an absolute fortune with ads in the local press each week. Not just with small ads making people aware of events of genuine interest to the community but about the various doings of councillors etc.
    Its a disgrace that public funds are spend on such blatant promotion of councillor activity!

  28. terry tyler

    gees life must be hard for that thief mike tyler. Labor dominated council doesn’t look good for old mikey. Those years of accepting bribes in his role in planning may just come back to haunt him. Too many years of fiddling in electoral processes may just spell the end for mikey. Not a good chrissie in the tyler household down at philip island. Those brown paper bags that paid for philip island may just prove to be mikes achilles heal!

  29. star boy

    dear dumb anonymous, why did paul thomas (owner of star group), jim mynard and other from star attend tonights swearing in ceremony and dinner, while faifax and leader were not invited. Do you think it may be because the star news group does council many favours? Maybe the fact that it covers up the incompetence of casey eg the tip, maternal child health service and mick morlands beergate. Get a brain anonymous.
    Maybe the fact that the star news group are the only paper the council advertises with might be a clue.
    The star news group will fail within the next 6 months. Just wait for the next installment!

  30. inga envy

    I bet ya old inga will be a little disappointed that one of the slut sisters( wredford and halsall) didn’t continue in the role of mayor. Going to be a little hard to get those little tittie bits inga pinga is so used to. Anyway I think the liberals new electoral system may just be enough to see inga binga off. Not alot of friends poor inga only the hethertons ( they hate aborigines) kenny aldred ( hates jews) and a couple of rascist dickheads. Not enough to secure a local vote. Pissing off Mr Shepherdson may not have been the best move when it comes to securing local votes. I hear some of the local branches are looking forward to a meal!

  31. anonymous

    why did paul thomas (owner of star group), jim mynard and other from star attend tonights swearing in ceremony and dinner, while faifax and leader were not invited.

    Starboy – Oh – was that Sandra Bull from Fairfax sitting near me tonight?

    Get it right before making stupid and false comments

  32. Anonymous

    I heard that former (ha, ha, ha!) Councillor from Banyule Dean Sherriff is forming “an investment vehicle” for “investment in Australian media equities”. If this is true and he gets a stake in something like Star, oh my goodness: you haven’t seen biased coverage yet people!
    ASIC should stop him.

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