JUST last month former QBE boss Frank O’Halloran was pressing the flesh at the AFL grand final on behalf of the insurance group as the team the company has sponsored for 25 years, the Sydney Swans, took home the cup in a nail-biter.

By the end of this month, he’ll be helping to run a competitor as chairman of Steadfast Group, which is basically a buyers’ group for insurance brokers, as it prepares for a listing on the ASX.

Not bad after leaving QBE with shares and benefits worth up to $37 million in August.

What’s more, QBE seems fairly relaxed about the move, giving O’Halloran an early release from a non-compete agreement that could have kyboshed the deal.

Because QBE underwrites about 17 per cent of Steadfast’s business, plans for O’Halloran to rejoin the QBE board next year as a non-executive director have been ditched.

CBD ventures to suggest new QBE CEO John Neal might find life a little easier without the man who used a series of ambitious acquisitions to build the company into what it is today looking over his shoulder.

Indeed, the company seems to have been so relaxed about the move it didn’t get around to putting out an announcement until after 5pm on Friday.

A QBE spokesman insists the timing wasn’t the company’s choice, but rather due to the National Insurance Brokers Association shindig over the weekend, at which QBE won general insurer of the year.

While Steadfast is happy to have O’Halloran, and QBE is happy to let him go, there is one drawback to the otherwise satisfactory arrangement.

O’Halloran won’t be lending his skills at any more company functions, including an upcoming overseas trip QBE has organised for analysts.

CBD doesn’t know where the tour is going, but suggests Bermuda, where QBE has recently expanded the operations of its captive reinsurer, Equator Re, moving eight people from its Dublin office.

For his part, it is understood O’Halloran jetted out for South America yesterday morning.

‘Big’ Jim’s hiring

IT SOUNDS like a great job, even if the grammar and spelling is a little shaky. Corporate development manager for a small, private, Swiss investment firm that’s on the prowl for underperforming Australian minnows it can snap up and turn around.

Sure, there’s some random capitalisation in the ad and ”implement” is spelt ”impalement”, which sounds a bit uncomfortable, but hey, with a name like Swissco Asia Pacific Investment Fund, English is not going to be their first language, right?

So, why is it that the phone number of twice-banned, baseball-bat-wielding, former used car salesman ”Big” Jim Byrnes appears at the bottom of the ad Swissco placed on Seek苏州美甲美睫培训.au on Friday?

CBD recognised the number because it’s the same one used to sell the ”0” number plates that used to adorn the Sydney property developer and former bankrupt’s Mercedes.

”Big” Jim told CBD he was ”just an employee” and ”not in a position to disclose anything. I’m not in a position legally to disclose where the funds come from.”

However, Switzerland’s freely available corporate database shows the company, originally named Rollercom, was set up in late 2010 by a Dr Martin Grossmann as an insurance and finance outfit and changed its purpose to investment in the Asia Pacific region in August.

CBD hopes Jim’s latest Swiss connection fares better than his last effort, ALF Group Holdings.

The company, formerly in the knickers trade under the moniker Can Can Lingerie Holding, was connected to his litigation funder Australian Litigation Funders.

Can Can couldn’t couldn’t, was de-listed by the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in June and went into liquidation by order of a Swiss court the following month.

Company documents show that Jim, his wife Catherine and business associate Michael Pakula were directors when the ship went down, although Jim told CBD that his family had bought the Australian assets back before that happened.

The documents also show one of ALF’s previous directors was Dr Martin Grossmann, of Zurich.

Clearly relations between Jim and the doctor are still good.

”They were the ones who sought me out, not the other way around,” he said.

The Village elders

WITH Australia’s population rapidly ageing, the push is on to keep older workers on the job for longer.

The Australian Law Reform Commission has released a paper chock full of proposals that remove the barriers to keeping a rapidly graying workforce at the coalface – things like lifting the retirement age for judges and soldiers, allowing over-75s to top up their super, and encouraging employers to take on older workers.

None of those things would seem to be needed at cinema and theme park operator Village Roadshow, at least at executive and board level.

The company has just extended chief executive Graham Burke’s contract through to 2017, by which time he will be a sprightly 75.

As a mark of gratitude for his ”outstanding contribution to the company over many years”, Burke is also to be granted 4.5 million Village Roadshow shares, at a cost of about $2.7 million.

The decision was made by an equally youthful board whose average age is 65.2.

It would be older but for a couple of teenagers, in the shape of 46-year-old Timothy Antonie, who also sits on the board of Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments, and 50-year-old Julie Raffe, dragging the average towards the cradle.

Luckily Austereo Group executive chairman Peter Harvie, 73, and Hollywood veteran Barry Reardon, 81, are there to bring a bit of wisdom to bear.

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