The Bug‘s financial and investment adviser recalls an old mate whose reputation deserves a reassessment.
In the Sunday paper I read the diary extracts of fugitive businessman Christopher Skase who died in Spain back in August 2001.
As a small business operator – or should I say, former small business operator – the diary extracts brought back my mixed feelings toward that scumbag. A part of me was glad because Skase’s business dealings in the 1980s meant my own business was owed several tens of thousands of dollars which I’ll never see.
On the other hand, part of me was sad because with his demise I believe my chances of recovering even a small fraction of what’s owed to me effectively disappeared and caused my business to go belly up.
As a business entrepreneur yourself, I was wondering if you had any views on the matter?
As one of the allegedly late tycoon’s oldest friends and associates, I must say outright that I don’t share your view of Skasie being “a scumbag”. That’s be bit OTT in my book.
To me he was a top bloke whose good name was besmirched by those heartless pricks from successive Australian governments who hounded a visionary entrepreneur to an early grave over a few missing quid.
Sure, he had a few projects that went a bit sour when those stiff suits in the banking game suddenly turned off the finance tap and the red-tape loving shiny-arsed, pen-pushing, eggheads in government came down hard, all because they were blinkered by a fuddy-duddy, outdated notion that loans need to be repaid.
I’ve always said it’s that sort of old-style thinking that’s holding this nation back.
He and I did a few deals together back in the 70s and 80s – the days when people with a good idea could still stitch up a couple of Big Ms over a nine-hour lunch with your friendly banker – all without ever having to pony up a single bloody zac or leave the hot tub.
In fact the buggers would often bring along a blank cheque and simply ask: “How much this time?”
Those were the days when blokes like Skasie, Bondy and I could put together a project that could make your eyes revolve faster than the funds financing the whole shebang.
In fact Bondy – another genuine business genius no longer with us – Skasie and I did a couple of beachfront developments together north-east of Alice Springs.
We also did a few canal estates near Broken Hill – or Byron Bay West as we marketed it (pictured).
So you won’t be surprised when I tell you that news of the Big C’s demise from the Big C brought a tear to the old Morrie’s eyes.
Actually Skasie and I go so far back that few people would know that I introduced his missus Pixie to the former corporate high-flyer when he had barely left journalism and was only just beginning his rise up the corporate ladder and his shoes were still dark tan or black.
“She’s not like the other girls I’ve met,” Skasie confided in me.
It was obvious to me that the statuesque blonde had left her mark on my business chum, although I think it came out later with dry-cleaning.
While I recognise small bizoids like you may have lost a few quid on one or two Skase projects, you need to acknowledge that none of us in the entrepreneurial game can guarantee everyone, or indeed anyone, who puts money in gets it back.
Like life itself, business is a risky game. I should know. I’ve got many a project to the launching pad only to have it fail to reach orbit or crash back to earth.
Admittedly, I’ve never had any of my own hard-earned involved, but I can appreciate your position.
But let’s face the cold hard facts. Greedy people latched on to Skasie’s coat-tails like a pit-bull on a pensioner’s leg when he was riding high.
But as soon as a few decisions went sour, they started squealing fraud and accusing my mate of white-collar crime.
Personally, I don’t think Skasie was guilty of anything more than paying himself a reasonable director’s fee for the 40-hour days he put in in a gallant if futile bid to keep his empire afloat.
I for one like to remember him at the height of his powers.
I vividly remember the day he first showed me his brainchild, the five-star resort for the rich and famous at the Gold Coast.
It had come on top of some whispers that Skasie was a little over-extended, and sitting in a jaccuzi filled with goat’s milk among all that marble and gold-plated taps, I asked Skasie how he managed to achieve it all under the circumstances.
“Morrie,” Christopher said with that cheeky grin that could disarm the most doubtful of doubters, “never lose sight of the fact that it’s just a mirage.”
But still it was as big a shock to me as anybody when his Quintex empire came crumbling down at the end of the glorious 80s, even though I must admit at his last big Christmas party he did ask everyone only to take one crate of Bollie home afterwards.
People like Skasie and I know that if you want to make a Spanish omelette you’ve got to smash a few eggs.
That’s why I think blokes like Skasie should be canonised, not condemned.
To me he will always be a hero and I reckon many Australians are starting to see him in a new light, especially after he’s had his say from the grave through his diaries.
I firmly believe he – or at least his ashes – should be returned to his homeland and given pride of place in some sort of memorial to our business heroes.
So I’ve started making plans for just that – to give Skasie the welcome home he deserved and should have received when he was alive.
Of course a memorial, first-class flights to and from Spain to check logistics and the like will all take time and money.
Sure it may cost a motza but my old mate deserves it, and I hope you’ll agree.
I’m asking all fellow Australians who still adhere to the principle of giving a battler a fair go to dig deep to get Skasie back to the country he loved and missed so terribly much in his years in exile.
If you want to be involved in commemorating a truly Aussie hero, send me a K or two.
Post me a cheque made out to Christopher’s Ashes Shipped Home Pty Ltd and I’ll soon get things moving at my end.
Bugger it, to save your time and mine, just make it out to CASH.
I’ll be in touch.
Morrie Bezzle is chairman of the M Fasseema Discretionary Trust, director of Espanol Wheelchair Hire Company, executive director of Majorca Mirage Resorts (in liquidation), and former chairman of Kwintecks Pty Ltd.
The Bug and its subsidiaries or related entities accept no responsibility for the advice or comments contained in Mr Bezzle’s column.