AFR camps out for days to get photo of secretive TPG billionaire David Teoh

22

blog Always wondered what secretive TPG billionaire David Teoh looks like? Never been able to check out a photo of the executive? You’re not alone. I’ve been writing about Australia’s telecommunications industry now for a decade and I’ve never seen a photo, let alone met the man. However, that changed this morning after the Financial Review published a photo of Teoh that a freelancer photographer had taken after camping out outside his house for days. The photo is published here on the website of the Sydney Morning Herald. The site reports:

“Up until now, most publicly available images of TPG boss David Teoh have been through tinted windows, or have shown only the back or side of his head as he moves to avoid the camera. There is no sign of his face on the company’s website or in its annual reports.”

Personally, I don’t think this kind of behaviour should be allowed. If you’re running Australia’s second-largest broadband company, if you’re responsible to shareholders of your publicly listed corporation, and most of all, if you actually care about providing some modicum of transparency to your customers, then you have an obligation to be a little transparent yourself. TPG — and Teoh in particular — appears to have a bit of a hard time doing this — and it’s probably why many Australian technologists are suspicious of the company and its operations.

22 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve no issues of people not wanting photo’s taken of them (eg private citizens … its not like he’s trying to be a public figure … aka politician or entertainer) but there are definitely other means of communicating that could be used that wouldn’t require it and should probably be used more. Then he might find there wouldn’t be anyone stalking him for a photo as no-one would likely care.

    “I don’t think this kind of behaviour should be allowed. If you’re running Australia’s second-largest broadband company, if you’re responsible to shareholders of your publicly listed corporation”

    Well the shareholders likely don’t overly care (even less so given the recent financial announcements), if nothing else all they have to do it turn up to the AGM et al if it really bothers them.

    From my perspective as a long time Internode customer I was more accustomed to reading Simon Hackett’s whirlpool posts etc and I’d have for the longest of times been able to pass him on the street and been none the wiser (and none the worse for it). So yes there was this perspective of a persona at least.

    Personally I find the AFR’s actions far more offensive that Teoh’s.

  2. Is he filing all appropriate disclosures? Yes? Cool, that’s good enough.

    If the lifestyles of company CEOs make a difference to you, then you can research them & avoid companies you disagree with or where the CEO is more private than you’d like. Many of the best companies have notoriously private CEOs.

    Fame brings problems, it’s understandable that some people would rather avoid it. Let them live their lives on their terms. If the company is doing something, it’ll come out without needing to stalk the CEO.

    • It’s not about lifestyle for me … it’s about whether the head of a corporation is accountable to his customers. Of course Teoh is always going to file the right forms and follow the right procedures to maintain his responsibility to shareholders. But personally I have never really felt comfortable being the customer of a company whose CEO is completely inaccessible — it shows that they don’t take customer concerns seriously.

      • Most publicly traded companies don’t take customers seriously, they have to put shareholders first. The wider and more diverse that customer base is the less they seem to care. Customers tend to be treated more like a commodity than the reason a traded business needs to/does exist.

        Internode is a good example of (what was) a private company looking after its customers. iiNet is a good example of how massive an effort is required to come close to Internode as a publicly listed company.

        Who would know the CEO of their Super company if they passed them on the street? or Health fund? Who would care? I am sure you can find there picture somewhere so sure its possible. For the vast majority though I’d wager they pay as little attention to those photo’s as I do and would pass them by on the street.

        Could Teoh should Teoh communicate more … I’d say that’s a definite or at the very least have a well spoken mouth piece to do so for him (that would be someone senior and not just a mere parrot). Times like these when there are big things afoot it would likely make a pretty big impact. Photo’s though are simply more of a media issue however.

        Also I think the likes of MM and SH have terribly spoilt us in the as far as accessible CEO’s etc go.

      • Take customer concern seriously? In Australia? Are you joking?

        This is an area of interest to me. I find it really interesting that we ostensibly have one of the world’s most protective Industrial Relations frameworks (the Consumer Protection Act 2010) and yet, in reality, it has few teeth. Yes, we have laws stating that any company operating in Australia must only sell products of high quality, that will last long enough with the intended use that will not fail prematurely, and that the retailer (not the manufacturer, the retailer) must repair, replace or refund (at the *customer’s* discretion, not the retailer’s) if a good should be faulty or fail prematurely with normal use.

        But the reality is that failing to meet these obligations comes with no automatic penalties. If they stonewall you, if they try to fob you off to the manufacturer, if they say it only comes with a 12 month warranty and it’s 14 months old despite it being something that should last for decades (like an oven or fridge), if the item you bought has a lifetime warranty but due to exchange rate changes what you bought two years ago is now more than twice the price, but they will only refund you the original amount paid, and negotiating and writing letters gets you nowhere, your *only* option is to go to court. Oh sure, you can go to your state consumer protection body, but they can only try to negotiate and ask the retailer nicely to meet your demands – once you’ve tried that, if they don’t come to the party, you can give up, or go to court.

        Do you have any idea what it’s like to go through the process of small claims court? Even if it’s an item worth thousands of dollars it is barely worth your time trecking into court, possibly for as many as five or six hearings (they can ask for delays and they will probably be granted, just to fuck with you). In the end, the Consumer Guarantees mean you will almost certainly get your item replaced, and if you’ve had reasonable expenses (say, already replaced it at your own cost because of the wait) you can apply for the court to order those ‘reasonable expenses’ resulting from the loss of that item to be remunerated. But you don’t get costs awarded for your time in court, the hours and hours you’ve spent on the phone or writing letters or preparing your case or any legal fees – it’s small claims court, where legal fees can’t be applied. There is no fine for them breaching the act, no matter how often they do it.

        So on paper, we have this great piece of legislation, but in reality, without enforceable, large fines for breaches, it has no teeth, and few people will bother to go through the hassle of having it enforced.

        • You may think, ‘I’ll just go and talk about it on a review site!’ Good luck with that – in the USA the law is on the side of consumers, protecting their right to talk about true experiences. In Australia, truth is no defence against defamation or libel – if it can be shown you were trying to maliciously damage someone’s reputation you can still be found liable. Companies often claim damage in the millions of dollars, too, so just to get to court and have the case heard might cost you in excess of $100k. Most people roll, delete the comments, sign a statement promising never to talk about it again and cop a bill for $10k just to make it go away.

          Think I’m exaggerating? It’s been tried on a couple of times on Whirlpool (not the poster, they’ve tried to take the site down) OCAU got shut down back at the end of 2000 over such a case of a user posting in the forums, and another prominent website went down a couple of years ago, destroyed by such a case. In Australia, freedom is a platitude and fairness an illusion. Either get used to it, or start making noises to try to get legislation to change it. Because what we have right now are empty promises and nothing more.

  3. Really?
    I’ve known David (and Vicky) for years ever since I used to buy and also sell him computer parts and software from the old Sydney store in early 90’s.

    He’s always been a private guy and really there is no reason why anyone has to have or show there photos on any website anywhere no matter whom they are unless that is a specific part of there business. ie: media personality, Politician, etc – Business people whether they have public companies or not are NOT part of that area of need.

    As for your statement of “Personally, I don’t think this kind of behaviour should be allowed”. Renai… your confirmation bias as a reporter is showing.

    • As I wrote here:

      “It’s not about lifestyle for me … it’s about whether the head of a corporation is accountable to his customers. Of course Teoh is always going to file the right forms and follow the right procedures to maintain his responsibility to shareholders. But personally I have never really felt comfortable being the customer of a company whose CEO is completely inaccessible — it shows that they don’t take customer concerns seriously.”

      • I disagree, a CEO does not have to be accessible to customers, they only have to create an environment in their organisation that responds to customer concerns.
        The CEO is not customer support

  4. Dammmn, I didn’t realise people still didn’t know what David looked like, I’m sitting here with stacks of old work christmas party pics of him! I wonder if a tabloid would buy….

    • There is a difference between not being attention-seeking and actively avoiding contact with the media, public and customers. I don’t think the latter is legitimate if you run one of Australia’s largest companies.

  5. Allowed? Wanting to maintain your privacy should not be *allowed*?

    Ugh. I hope that’s just poor language usage.

    Photos of his face will not make TPG more transparent, nor make him any more responsible to shareholders.

  6. What an invasion of the man and his family’s privacy.

    I find it hard to reconcile how you can condone this sort of behavior Renai, when you write so passionately in defence of privacy at other times:

    “There is absolutely no doubt that the Data Retention legislation is terrible policy which will result in huge invasions of all Australians’ privacy. As a country, we are largely against it.”

    If you are a CEO then you forfeit your right to privacy because you have customers??

Comments are closed.