Disgraced corporate-predator Sol Lew â€“ who narrowly avoided a prison sentence after taking tens of millions of dollars from public company Coles Myer to prop up his then tottering empire in the infamous Yannon transaction â€“ has hired disgraced accused sex-predator and ex-David Jones boss Mark McInnes to run his young womensâ€™ apparel business on a salary package of $5.2 million per annum.
The billionaire Lew recently further damaged public regard for himself by demanding the imposition of GST on every single online purchase from overseas, which if implemented would cause lengthy delays in delivery, huge costs to taxpayers that would outweigh the revenue generated and increased costs on value-conscious consumers. The reaction to Lewâ€™s poorly-considered public statements â€“ amateurishly co-ordinated by his spin-doctor former Simon Crean staffer and ACTU goon Michael McLeod â€“ was so overwhelming that retail analysts believed it boosted awareness of the fact that online shopping is cheaper than traditional retail in Australia by as much as 35%. Indeed, eBay Australia have recently exploited Lewâ€™s gaffe, launching a campaign drawing attention to their site being an excellent alternative to bricks-and-mortar retail. The whole GST push was one of the most self-defeating foolish public-relations fiascos of all time. And showed the dangers of Lew running around, as it were, half-cocked.
McInnes was the high-flying CEO of David Jones until he was accused by a DJâ€™s publicist of sexually harassing her. Many thought the publicistâ€™s lawyers had mishandled the whole dispute but it certainly had a devastating effect on the companyâ€™s usually unsullied reputation and was thought to have made him unemployable. It didnâ€™t do her much good either, with broken promises to pay any damages to a womensâ€™ charity and so on.
After much public brawling David Jones and McInnes agreed to pay the harassed 25 year-old woman $850,000 in compensation, a large amount that could potentially worry shareholders in Lewâ€™s womensâ€™ apparel business Premier Investments. The company employs many hundreds of young women also. The harassment victim initially claimed $37 million and while she was never going to get that sort of award, it was enough to cause grave concern among David Jonesâ€™ shareholders at the time.
The publicistâ€™s statement of claim made damning accusations about McInnes and his track-record of being a sexual-predator as breathlessly reported at the time by the Sydney Morning Herald, itâ€™s not unreasonable to say some of this conduct verged on sexual assault:
(The 25 year old woman) alleges she informed David Jones management about Mr McInnes’s unwelcome advances on several occasions, and on one occasion was told: “Next time that happens, you just need to be very clear and say ‘no Mark’ and he’ll back off.” (The 25 year old woman) alleges that Mr McInnes made unwelcome comments of a sexual nature and unwelcome sexual advances towards her at a lunch function on May 23 celebrating the renewal of a David Jones contract with racing identity Gai Waterhouse. McInnes urges (the 25 year old woman) to try a dessert by saying the dessert was like a f— in the mouth,” the statement of claim alleges that he said to her. He later allegedly placed his hand under her clothes, touching her bra strap and repeatedly asked her to accompany him to his Bondi home “where the clear implication [was] that such as visit would be for the purpose of sexual intercourse”, the claim alleges.
(The 25 year old woman) claims she made it clear his conduct was unwelcome and had attempted to use distracting banter to deflect the sexually suggestive conversation. The claim alleges Mr McInnes made no effort to conceal his conduct from other employees that day. The following day, Mr McInnes sent (the 25 year old woman) a series of emails which repeated that she meet him at his home, the claim says. On June 7, they attended a function at a private home in Rose Bay for La Prairie cosmetics at which (the 25 year old woman) alleges Mr McInnes repeated his desire for her to go home with him before trying to kiss her on the mouth while putting his arm around her.
â€œMcInnes then again attempted to kiss (the 25 year old woman) on the mouth while placing his hand on (The 25 year old woman)â€™s stomach before moving it under her clothes so that his hand reached the bottom of [her] bra while [she] was pulling away from his unwelcome touch and turning to the left so that he could not kiss her on the mouth,” the statement of claim alleges.
Lew, frequently in the company of attractive female personal trainers, gym instructors and such in his recent 40-kilo-shedding health-craze that has featured a notorious course of diet-pills, litres of fresh fruit-juice from the Collins Place juice-bar, lengthy â€œwork-outsâ€ with his trainers, power-walks around â€œthe Tanâ€ with Graeme Samuel and equally lengthy spells on the toilet, according to well-placed gossips, will be keen to ensure McInnes keeps his mind on the job.
He has structured the flirt-merchantâ€™s $5.2 million package in such a way to provide as much incentive ad possible with about half of it linked to improving profitability in the group. Weâ€™re all for second chances but Premier shareholders will be hoping McInnes treats the groupâ€™s female staff and customers with respect and courtesy at all times. If thereâ€™s another incident, Lew could face massive legal liability himself.