Saturday, December 17, 2005

Gutnick, reversal of fortune

The Age:

IT USED to be standing room only at Joseph Gutnick's annual meetings. Not any more.
When his three companies recently held their annual get-togethers, no one from the outside world showed up. Not even the improving price of gold prodded anyone into going. And the two shareholders who did attend later disappeared into the companies' back offices.
How things have changed for Joseph Gutnick. He used to preside over mining and exploration companies with a stockmarket value of $3 billion. He dined with prime ministers. In 2001, nearly 1000 articles were published about him; the tally so far this year is 31.
The man has just about disappeared from public view. "I've had that much publicity, whether it was in America or Israel or Australia, for a number of lifetimes," he says, adding that he now enjoys the lack of attention.
"I spend more quality time with my family. My life could have just been lost in the hoo-ha of publicity. Ten years later, I look back and say, 'What happened?'
"The (11) kids were growing up and to some extent I missed that, but that hasn't happened during the past five years.
"I'm still involved in Israel, involved in the Jewish community, but I haven't got the high profile. There were some nasties from the high profile. I had an al-Qaeda threat to myself. My family wasn't excited about that."
Gutnick says he still has a bodyguard — "he's with me all the time" — and he thinks "Melbourne is not exactly off the target area of al-Qaeda at the moment".
Outwardly, Joseph Gutnick has changed little since the heady days. The hair under the black yarmulke is greyer but the accoutrements in his office are the same.
The big picture of his spiritual mentor, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, is on the wall facing his desk, and stockmarket quotes are on a screen at his elbow. Behind him is a little mascot of the Melbourne Football Club.
His presidency of the club is long gone, the companies worth billions have either collapsed, been taken over or have shrunk to almost nothing. And there have been investigations by the authorities.
The signs are that his wealth, too, isn't what it was. Gone is the Rolls and the big boat. He still owns a plane but it is rented out. He drives a Lexus. "I'm back to being one of the ordinary members of society," he says.
posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 7:02 PM

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