Jack Cowin to join Fairfax’s board: Has Rinehart won?

Hungry Jack’s founder Jack Cowin is to join Fairfax Media’s board as an independent director, effective immediately.

Cowin is a long-time ally of Gina Rinehart, Fairfax’s biggest shareholder who is currently agitating for two board seats. Cowin serves with her on the Ten board, and in June told newspapers he believed Fairfax’s board should be able to influence the editorial direction of the media outlets to improve profits. This was assumed to reflect Rinehart’s views.

The Fairfax board claims it has refused to allow her on the board because she will not sign the company’s charter of editorial independence, which forbids such interference.

But today, Corbett said in the release that Cowin joined the board “on the same basis as all other directors”, which implies the he has signed the contested charter.

The company said its appointment of Cowin had nothing to do with Rinehart.

“Our discussions with Mr Cowen over recent months have made it clear that he has considerable value to add to the company,” Fairfax chairman John Corbett said.

“Neither Mr Cowin or Fairfax Media consider his appointment as being indicative or connected to the potential outcomes of the company’s inconclusive discussions with [Rinehart-owned] Hancock Prospecting.”

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