PS had a ring-side seat to the legal stoush between Elle Macpherson and her former “bestie” and business partner Andrea Horwood, founder and creator of the WelleCo business for which Macpherson has been a global poster girl.
The genetically blessed 55-year-old Miami-based supermodel has spent years espousing the supposed health and beauty benefits of WelleCo’s The Super Elixir Greens, billed as a jar of powdered green goodness that Horwood said had turned into a $21 million-plus global business in just four years. “It’s a gut-wrenching experience to have this done to me and the business I founded and created, which has become such a success,” Horwood told PS in January as she pursued her claim in the West Australian Supreme Court after claims she was squeezed out of the business.
In February, king of the mascara wand Napoleon Perdis revealed his eponymous make-up empire was in tatters and facing debts of $22.8 million.
Perdis, who only a few months before had launched into a chain of discount chemists with a lavish party in Brisbane – arriving aboard his own private jet (to be fair, it simply taxied around from the back of the hangar and was never actually airborne) was not going down without a fight, taking swipes at “greedy landlords”, “dead” shopping centres and uncompromising bankers as his retail cosmetics empire collapsed into administration.
After store closures and fire sales, by April his brand had some good news after it was rescued by “daigou queen” Livia Wang and former Witchery boss Henry Lee, who initially kept Perdis and his wife Soula-Marie on as creative consultants. But it wasn’t to last, and Perdis was gone by June.
Alan Jones and Ray Hadley
It set the scene for one of the year’s great ego battles, with ill-fated plans hatched for Alan Jones’ once unthinkable departure from 2GB to make way for his stablemate Ray Hadley.
The bad blood embroiled many, not in the least 2GB proprietor John Singleton, who was to later sell his controlling share of the station’s parent company Macquarie Media to Nine, the publisher of this masthead.
2GB boss Adam Lang landed in the centre of the tug-o-war. Hadley was dogged by a wave of bullying claims from several current and former staffers within 2GB, including explosive allegations from Andrew Moore and former radio producer Chris Bowen, just as another defamation lawsuit was launched against him by journalist Josh Massoud.
In the end Jones was re-signed. Hadley’s ascension plans were thrown into disarray, and even his “engagement” announcement was unable to salvage the PR disaster which had unfolded around 2GB. Lang was out the door by October.
Jill Hickson Wran appeared her radiant old self in January, as she arrived at a friend’s 70th birthday party at Palm Beach’s swanky Boathouse restaurant.
But those happy days were not to last in 2019 as news spread her troubled daughter Harriet Wran was in the news once again, this time arrested and charged with possessing drugs and stolen goods on the Central Coast.
Harriet Wran’s arrest came less than three years after her release from Silverwater prison, where she served time for robbery and being an accessory to the murder of drug dealer Daniel McNulty in August 2014.
In a letter to the court, Wran said she relapsed about three months before her arrest, following years of sobriety, and was so physically ill from drug use that most days she could not leave the house.
“Mum was horrified and devastated, barely able to look at me. I was frail, angry and unpredictable. It was not fair on her. None of this is fair on her. She suffers as a result of my failure.”
The last thing James Packer needed in 2019 was the whiff of another scandal, but that’s exactly what his association with former Warner Bros chief executive Kevin Tsujihara delivered in March, when the Hollywood Reporter detailed text messages between the billionaire and Charlotte Kirk, an aspiring actor who dated Packer in 2013 and later hooked up with his friend Tsujihara.
In one text Packer told the ambitious actress to “get back in your box” while the trove of messages also suggested a quid pro quo sexual relationship between the aspiring actress and the studio head in which he made promises to introduce her to influential executives and that she would be considered for roles in movies and television.
Packer told PS of his time with Kirk: “We had a brief relationship and I tried to help her career, I genuinely only ever had good intentions for Charlotte.”
It was a brighter note when Packer took delivery of his shiny new $200 million floating palace, a “gigayacht” named IJE – after his three children Indigo, Jackson and Emmanuelle – he had been awaiting for four years.
Packer and his girlfriend Kylie Lim, currently in Aspen, marked another year together, though the billionaire denied speculation he had proposed to the mysterious New York socialite. However he confided to PS he “loved her very much”.
2019 had its share of sad farewells too.
Media titan Mike Willesee lost his long battle with throat cancer in March, aged 76. A roll-call of who’s who of Australian media descended on Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral to pay their respects to the devoutly Catholic newsman who helped shape modern day Australian broadcast journalism.
Also in March Kerri-Anne Kennerley bid farewell to her biggest fan, husband John Kennerley, who died almost three years to the day after an accident left him a quadriplegic. Hundreds of mourners gathered at Woollahra’s All Saint’s church to support the television personality and pay their respects. For three years, Kennerley required around-the-clock care, and while he defeated the odds to survive as long as he did, his recovery after fracturing his C2 and C3 vertebrae was never going to be an easy one.
In April we bid farewell to Sydney antiques dealer Martyn Cook, who counted the likes of Ros Packer, Paul Keating, David Roche, Lady Mary Fairfax, Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull, Richard Pratt, John Gandel, Elton John and even Madonna among his clients.
Cook once found himself in between his feuding clients Kerry Packer and Paul Keating. On a visit to Packer’s rural retreat Ellerston, near Scone, Cook went to his room to find a doormat featuring Keating’s face. He politely turned it over so as not to scuff his friend Keating’s visage with his heels. The next day at breakfast Cook was handed a note from Packer telling him to “leave the bloody mats alone”.
In July cookery queen Margaret Fulton died, aged 94, and amid the tributes PS unearthed several details which had largely been overlooked in her various obituaries. Fulton was patron of the Australian Native Dog Society and fought for the rights of dingoes, she was a Greenpeace activist with a particular aversion to genetically modified foods and had been recognised as a national living treasure. She was still doing yoga and weight training well into her eighties.
Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch
Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch returned home for their 20th wedding anniversary celebrations in March. The three day extravaganza kicked off at Icebergs in Bondi and what a line up of guests it was, with former prime minister Tony Abbott, Ryan and Claire Stokes, billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest and wife Nicola, Joe Hockey and his wife Melissa Babbage, former News UK boss Rebekah Brooks, Erica Packer and her Cuban artist finacee Enrique Martinez Celaya, fashion designers Alex Perry, Collette Dinnigan and Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Edwina McCann.
There were some truly exceptional soirees in 2019, from the glam mega parties to unveil new outposts of Tiffany (complete with the $40 million plus Tiffany diamond) and Louis Vuitton, to the milestone events, such as Skye Leckie’s two-day 60th birthday, which was probably the bash of the year.
But 2019 also saw the rise of the ultra-glam charity event, such as the Silver Party, Gold Dinner, and most recently the Litmas gala, all raising money for very worthwhile causes and providing endless Instagram opportunities for organisers.
However PS is not alone in feeling there is a little too much focus on the expensive ballgowns, the jewels and the self-congratulatory selfies. Surely unimpeded altruism rather than social media climbing ought to be the true goal here?
The breakfast TV wars
The resurrection of Karl Stefanovic started in earnest at this year’s Logies, but at what cost? With no less than two mass extinction events on Nine’s Today in as many years – Georgie Gardner, Deb Knight, Richard Wilkins, Steve Jacobs, Tom Steinfort, Tim Gilbert, Tony Jones – Stefanovic and his new co-host, Allison Langdon, have their work cut out winning back viewers.
Meanwhile no one is paying more attention to Today than the team over at Seven’s Sunrise, which endured its own fair share of dramas this year, from Edwina Bartholomew’s calamitous social media comments about Nine reporter Seb Costello, to Samantha Armytage getting feisty over her mega-buck deal to flog Weight Watchers.
Indeed Armytage, newly loved up with her boyfriend, media-shy Richard Lavender, launched a scathing attack, even inviting me along to a WW meeting, after I questioned why someone who had previously championed being a healthy size 12 would become a celebrity fat-fighter.
It was also the year that mining magnate and beef queen Gina Rinehart revealed a new skill: country cook. Yes, the billionaire compiled her first cook book, filling it with memories of her days growing up in the rugged outback and sharing some of her favourite recipes.
It was fascinating reading, taking us on a nostalgic journey down memory lane.
“My beautiful mother cooked in un-air-conditioned kitchens on our stations, Mulga then Hamersley, which was like a furnace when the wood oven was cooking. The kitchen was tiny at Mulga, with a very low ceiling, and my mother would have to lower her head to get into the kitchen,” she reflects, though such hardships did have their advantages. “Her roast beef recipe, was one well immersed in beef fat dripping. But, absolutely delicious, and so were the tender roast vegetables, totally immersed in that dripping, and, best I’ve tasted.”
Arguably the most intriguing story for PS in 2019 came in August when it emerged that Katherine Keating was the “mystery brunette” in video footage taken in 2010. It appeared to show her outside the New York home of convicted dead billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, bidding farewell to Prince Andrew.
PS got digging, only to discover that Keating, daughter of former Australian PM Paul Keating, had been linked to Prince Andrew nine months before they were filmed together, initially meeting at a lavish party in Dubai.
Over the course of a weekend in March 2010, Keating met Prince Andrew, and was seen by his side several times at a series of celebrations to mark the grand opening of the enormous facility which Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, had personally overseen.
“They looked to be getting on very well and I saw her with him several times over the course of the weekend. They appeared very friendly but it was clear she had only met him on that weekend,” another guest at the party told PS on the grounds of anonymity.
Keating left Sydney for New York in 2010, when she began dating millionaire playboy hotelier Andre Balazs, another associate of Epstein, who is among the names listed in the billionaire’s now infamous address book.
Keating’s friends in Sydney were not overly surprised: “We nick-named her hubcap years ago … always sticking to the big wheels!” one of Keating’s oldest Sydney acquaintances chortled down the line.
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.