Directors’ Club – a select gathering for the corporate world elite

From News Ltd’s Sydney Daily telegraph, “First rule of Directors’ Club – don’t talk about Director’s Club”, by Phil Jacob, The Sunday Telegraph, December 21, 2013

It is the Fight Club of the business world – an underground collective of some of the country’s biggest movers and shakers.

Whispered about by hedge-fund analysts and traders on the stockmarket “bullpen” trading floor, the ultra-secretive “Director’s Club” has divided the business world surrounding its existence for years.

“It’s almost like fight club,” senior associate director at Patersons Securities John Curtin said.

“People who are part of the club never seem to talk about it, but everyone else wants to know who and what they are.”

A man no stranger himself to providing advice to corporate heavy-hitters, Mr Curtin said the group was now almost spoken about like a “Loch Ness monster”.

However the Sunday Telegraph can reveal the club has been meeting at least once bi-monthly within the four walls of private dining rooms at restaurants such as Neil Perry’s Spice Temple in Sydney and Nobu in Melbourne over the past two two years.

While a “cut-off” for the invite-only collective isn’t specified, “success” is noted by a simple measure – the value of the companies he or she sits on the board of as well as the company you keep.

From the outside looking in, they might not look any different to any other lunchtime gathering.  But a closer inspection of the table reveals some of Australia’s most well-respected and highly sought-after business people.

Telstra chairwoman, Catherine Livingstone, ANZ CEO Mike Smith, Westfield founder Frank Lowy are all believed to call themselves participants, while lesser known names such as UNSW President Fred Hilmer, Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron, Blackmore CEO Christine Holgate and ex-Leighton chairman Stephen Johns also make the cut.

But the man at the believed to be at the centre of the club is perhaps the most networked person in Australia – David Gonski.

A doyen of more than 40 corporate and not-for-profit boards, Mr Gonski currently chairs Coca-Cola, Investec Bank, Therese Rein’s welfare-to-work operation Ingeus and as recently as last week, ANZ bank.

But when asked in the past about the existence of a Director’s Club, the usually diplomatic and open Gonski becomes coy.

“I don’t really know what a directors’ club is. There are lot of people who are asked quite regularly to go on boards,” he said.

Henderson Maxwell invesment partner Sam Henderson said the purpose of the Director’s Club was to provide a high-level networking tool for the corporate elite.

“I think that’s one of the main reasons why it exists.”

“It’s a fabulous tool for the corporate high-fliers to keep in touch with their peers through lunches and other secretive networking opportunities,” Mr Henderson said.

“There are other more open networking groups like EO – the entrepreneur organisation, but this would really be for the crème de la crème.”

“At the end of the day, you know you’ve really made it in the corporate world if you take a seat at a meeting or luncheon with the group.”