Foiled!

As I have mentioned before , Opera Australia is a company limited by guarantee. You can become a member (akin to a shareholder) on signing the guarantee provided you are and for as long as you remain a shareholder. This entitles you to attend any general meetings and, amongst other things, to vote on the election of directors. Last year I attended the Opera Australia Annual General Meeting with the express intention of voting against Rowena Danziger’s re-election to the board. Shamefully, at the critical moment my nerve failed.

It is reasonable to assume that there may be a number of people who have been forming plans to attend this year’s annual general meeting and, at the very least, ask a few pointed questions. There are a few questions I would like to ask, such as what steps the company took (if any) to get reasonable attendances for Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Perhaps someone from the company has even read my own humble blog and anticipated that I too would turn up this year.

Since 1996 (the AGM after the OA took over the enterprise and assets and also, to be fair, liabilities of Opera Victoria), the meeting has been held in Sydney. Last year it was held on 22 May, and it has been held at about that time for a few years, so far as I am aware. It is likely that any people planning to attend or take part will have been anticipating a similarly timed and located meeting this year, particularly if they are rustling up any proxies and are in any way planning to attend in what might be thought of as a dissident capacity.

Yesterday, Dr Ziggy Switkowski, the chairman of the board, announced that this year’s meeting will be held in Melbourne on 9 April 2009 (which is Maundy Thursday). Thereafter (though obviously this is not binding and can be changed at will) the annual general meeting will alternate between Melbourne and Sydney.

There is, of course, good reason to offer Melbourne members a better opportunity (such as the AGM is, which is very little) to participate in the affairs of the company. Any advantage in heading off any trouble or embarrassment to the board could only be co-incidental.

Wasn’t that clever of them?

4 Responses to “Foiled!”

  1. Klytemnestra Says:

    You can still vote Rowena Danziger off the Board at this years OA AGM, in fact you can vote the entire Board off as long as you have enough votes and 12 names to put forward who will be voted on. You simply have a vote of ‘No Confidence’ for the dreaded Mrs Danvers and away she goes. I truly believe two decades is rather excessive. And if anyone missed Alan Jones talking with Bruce Martin this week simply log onto 2GB and you will be in for a treat. Werther was also empty – it never was when Kirsti Harms, Elizabeth Campbell and Bernadette Cullen were in it but then again they were known established and admired Australian singers…..need I say more!

  2. marcellous Says:

    1. I’m not sure if removing the board is as easy as you say. It would depend on the articles, but normally notice would need to be given of such a special resolution.
    2. I listened to Jones and Martin. Jones seems to have backed off about the Melbourne testamentary stoush (I think the company was in the right here: costs were run up meeting competing claims). But it’s a tough life if you have to side with Alan Jones against Rowena Danziger!
    3. I’m seeing Werther this week. It will be a shame if it is empty, but it is a lesser-known work in Australia.

    On another note, you have to laugh at Bryce Hallett’s regurgitating of the AO spin on its financial figures in the SMH. Apparently, all is good, save for the substantial loss on the AO’s investments which is general to all such endowments. The latter is true, but in fact the operating surplus was less than last year’s: My Fair Lady was responsible for an enormous jump in box office takings and evidently saved the company’s bacon. There was a decline in other commercial activities (maybe 2007 was a one-off in relation to video rights) and an increase in the AOBA’s loss (not clear whether the AOBA was the cost centre for the MFL orchestra or not).

    The full directors’ report (which would normally reveal attendance figures at least for the respective seasons) has been held back to the AGM – it used to be issued in advance although last year ridiculously had an ’embargo’ until the date of the meeting – whatever that could possibly mean for anyone other than a member of the press not receiving it in the capacity of a member.

    I would like to ascribe to the board the highest of motives but it is difficult to do so when there is so little transparency.

    One odd thing is that the agenda only mentions three retiring directors seeking re-appointment, but there are two other directors who resigned during the year (Fell and Cairns) who do not appear to have been replaced. Is the board planning to appoint to casual vacancies itself? (Again?) I haven’t checked the articles to see if it can when there has been an intervening general meeting. It would be nice if one day even just one director was initially appointed by the members rather than slipped in to fill a casual vacancy so as then to face a general meeting as an incumbent.

  3. Tenebrae III « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] By marcellous I didn’t go down to Melbourne for the Opera Australia Annual General Meeting on Thursday. Instead, I found myself at an afternoon callover in the District Court before the […]

  4. Opera Australia Annual General Meeting 2010 « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] I have been reminded of this because some people have been reading my earlier posts (1) (2) (3) on the subject of previous AGMs. My guess is that they are employees of the company who are […]

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