07 Jun

Sri Lankan great Mahela Jayawardene joins criticism of Steve Smith’s ‘rest’

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Former Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene has joined the criticism of Australia’s decision to rest Steve Smith for the remaining three one-day internationals and two Twenty20 matches in Sri Lanka.
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Smith, the Australian skipper and key batsman in the three formats, has been sent home to enjoy time off before a short one-day series in South Africa and then a busy home campaign, capped off with a four-Test tour of India from March.

While chief selector Rod Marsh and coach/selector Darren Lehmann have moved to justify the call, Michael Clarke, Shane Warne, Michael Slater and now Jayawardene have questioned it.

“Surprised to see Smith going back home to prepare for SA tour when this one is not finished. Would any other @CricketAus captain done this?” Jayawardene tweeted.

Smith had led his side in a short one-day series in the Caribbean, leading into the Sri Lankan tour. The South African tour begins with a one-off clash against Ireland on September 27.

Resting or rotating Australia’s more marketable players during a home summer has often been a contentious point, with host broadcaster Channel Nine having expressed fears ratings would be impacted.

Lehmann said he did not have an issue with the comments made by Clarke, Warne and Slater.

“We respect our former captains and former greats having an opinion. There is no dramas about it and they’re entitled to it. But we think it’s the best for Steven to get him right and ready to go,” Lehmann said.

“It’s hard captaining in all three formats and we are just making sure he gets a break.”

With Smith gone, vice-captain David Warner will become the 23rd man to lead Australia when the tied series resumes in Dambulla on Sunday. Surprised to see smith going back home to prepare for SA tour when this one is not finished. Would any other @CricketAus captain done this?— Mahela Jayawardena (@MahelaJay) 25 August 2016

Australia will hope a refreshed Smith can help overcome their troubles on the sub-continent and a testing summer at home which threatens to hit the players’ in the hip pocket.

Having been ranked the No.1 Test side by this year’s April 1 cut-off, the Australians enjoyed bonuses from Cricket Australia and an added $1 million from the International Cricket Council, when presented with the championship mace on the eve of the Sri Lankan series. But a losing 3-0 series there has led to Smith’s team dropping to No.3 on the ICC rankings.

Under the memorandum of understanding signed in 2012, the Australians are entitled to CA bonuses only if they have a top-two ranking. That is also the case in the one-day international and Twenty20 formats.

That Australia (108 points) narrowly sit behind India (110) and the freshly crowned Pakistan (111 points) means they have a chance to quickly vault up the Test rankings but Pakistan and South Africa shape as significant challenges this summer, even though the Proteas have slipped to seventh. A potentially rugged tour of India then awaits, which could again dampen hopes of a return to a top-two ranking.

Players are also entitled to bonuses for Test and series victories but none were forthcoming in Sri Lanka – and major improvement will be needed in India if things are to change there.

The Australians remain well rewarded financially in terms of base contracts and match payments, with players pocketing a fixed percentage of between 24.5 and 27 per cent of annual revenue depending on performance. This could mean that should there be two losing series on the sub-continent within an eight-month period – an area CA has targeted for improvement – then overall pay when the next round of contracts are debated next year could be closer to 25 per cent, as the 2011 Argus report suggested.

The fixed revenue scheme, established amid much agitation in 1997-98 under then players chief Tim May and Australian Cricket Board chief Mal Speed, appears under threat heading into a new round of discussions over a memorandum of understanding.

CA has not publicly detailed its stance ahead of discussions, officially beginning on October 1, but players believe the governing body is after change. Kevin Roberts, a former board member turned administrator, will lead CA’s negotiations.

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07 Jun

Katy Perry describes attack on Leslie Jones as ‘misogynoir’, internet loses it

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Leslie Jones, who temporarily left Twitter last month after being targeted by torrents of vile abuse, has been attacked on social media again. Photo: Michael Tran Leslie Jones, who temporarily left Twitter last month after being targeted by torrents of vile abuse, has been attacked on social media again. Photo: Michael Tran
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Katy Perry as a mainstream proponent of intersectional feminism? Sure, okay.

The pop star surprised the internet overnight when, while voicing her support for Leslie Jones in the wake of the comedian’s latest brush with online trolls, she described the attack as “misogynoir”.

The term, largely unknown outside of intersectional feminist circles (that Wikipedia page is taking a beating today), was coined by queer black feminist Moya Bailey in 2010, and further articulated by Trudy of the blog Gradient Lair, to describe the combined racist and sexist marginalisation experienced by black women. Do not give your eyeballs to this racist, hate-filled, misogynoir crime. I #StandWithLeslie ❤️— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) August 24, 2016

“Do not give your eyeballs to this racist, hate-filled, misogynoir crime. I #StandWithLeslie,” Perry wrote on Twitter, nearly breaking the internet.

While many celebrated the word being shared with her hopefully inquisitive 92.1 million followers, others mocked the idea of a white woman being praised for echoing a term black women have been using for years. Katy Perry used the term misogynoir. Wow. https://t杭州/viSEPa805o— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) August 24, 2016Y’all. When a major pop star uses Misogynoir, you know the game is changing. This is major. https://t杭州/m4fxtfikSd— kylie sparks (@kyliesparks) August 24, 2016bruh who taught katy perry “misogynoir”— Deaux (@dstfelix) August 24, 2016BW: we experience misogynistic racism aka misogynoir wh*te media: WW: misogynoir is bad wh*te media: WOW, GROUD BREAKING! NEW! SO AMAZING!— black history heaux (@localblactivist) August 25, 2016

Numerous celebrities, including Kerry Washington, Lena Dunham and Ghostbusters director Paul Feig, have rallied in support of Jones, whose website was attacked on Wednesday, with hackers exposing the actress’s private information, including nude pictures and personal documents.

It follows a similar attack last month which saw Jones temporarily leave Twitter, after trolls littered her account with racist and sexist abuse. What’s happening to @Lesdoggg is an absolute outrage. Alt right, haters, trolls, “comedians,” whoever the fuck you all are, you’re just sad.— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) August 24, 2016Wow. Yet another example: HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE. Intolerable trolling. So much ignorance & hate. I stand with #LeslieJones#LoveforLeslieJ— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) July 20, 2016Let’s turn our anger at trolls into love for Leslie Jones and into strategies to protect all the heroines who don’t deserve this bullshit— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) August 24, 2016I truly don’t know why people are so hateful towards @Lesdoggg. Why? She’s talented and wonderful. Why are people so pressed to be awful?— Gabby SidiBae (@GabbySidibe) August 24, 2016This @Lesdoggg attack is troubling. The rampant racism percolating in society right now is shameful and sad. She made a movie, that’s it!— octavia spencer (@octaviaspencer) August 24, 2016I was terrified when I did SNL. Leslie Jones went out of her way to be open, warm, friendly, funny all week. She is a GEM.— Anna Kendrick (@AnnaKendrick47) August 25, 2016these acts against leslie jones….are sickening. its racist & sexist. it’s disgusting. this is hate crimes. this aint “kids joshing round”— Questlove Gomez (@questlove) August 24, 2016

Jones, quite understandably, has yet to publicly comment on the hack. During last month’s attack, she called on her followers to drown out the torrent of abuse from haters.

“Stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones,” she wrote on Twitter. “I got more love than hate, but they louder. F— that. Be louder.”

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07 Jun

Lamborghinis, Lebanese drummers, lip work: the lavish wedding of Salim Mehajer’s sister Kat

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Lavish: Kat Mehajer marries Ibraham Sakalaki at Longuevue Mansion. Photo: Andrew Murray Dancers at Kat Mehajer’s nuptials. Photo: Andrew Murray
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A guest arrives for the wedding at Longuevue Mansion in a flash car. Photo: Andrew Murray

Kat Mehajer in a pre-wedding picture. Photo: Instagram

A flash motorcade arrives for the wedding of Kat Mehajer.

Salim Mehajer dances at the nuptials of his sister Kat and Ibraham Sakalaki at the ceremony. Photo: Andrew Murray

Billed as Sydney’s “next big wedding” after her brother’s infamous and apparently doomed 2015 ceremony, the 2016 version of Mehajer marital bliss did not disappoint.

Khadijeh “Kat” Mehajer, younger sister to former Auburn deputy mayor Salim, and her new husband, Ibraham Sakalaki, dazzled suburban Sydney on Saturday with their lavish nuptials.

Held at Longuevue Mansion in Kenthurst, about 40 kilometres north-west of Sydney’s CBD, the ceremony was an extravaganza of Lamborghinis, Lebanese drummers, and lip work.

Despite being denied a request to close a street for the wedding, the event still managed to stop traffic, with police blocking off streets and accompanying the groom, Mr Sakalaki, and his massive convoy of sports cars and motorbike riders wearing “Mehajer Bros” outfits to the allegedly-secret and apparently last-minute location.

A police helicopter hovered over the sprawling six acre block that bills itself as “the ideal escape for a luxurious holiday or that 6 star special event” as Mr Sakalaki arrived in a white Lamborghini.

Resplendent in white suit, he gave a peace sign to the assembled media as he entered.

He followed by Mr Mehajer, who was dateless, and still wearing a wedding ring despite his much publicised break-up with wife Aysha.

If Mr Mehajer was feeling the weight of the on-going scandals that have made him famous, he managed to put on a brave face for his little sister’s nuptials.

The bad boy of local politics, and aspirant “state, federal … very top spot” politician remained impassive as news cameras swamped him on arrival, and was front and centre dancing with Ms Mehajer and Mr Sakalaki.

Norma Needham, the owner of Longuevue, ruffled some feathers. Arriving before the wedding party on Saturday morning, she demanded that cars be moved off the street, and at one point yelled into a phone about the scale of the event.

Later though, she appeared to change her tune. After scrubbing the white carpet laid out for the bride and groom’s arrival, she joined the revellers in dancing during the ceremony.

Despite some neighbours complaining they had been told the event would be “small scale”, Ms Needham insisted she “didn’t have to” apply for council permission to hold “a little get together here with people that I enjoy”, and said it “wasn’t anyone’s business anyway”.

After the ceremony, Mehajer guests chanted “Norma, Norma, Norma” when she told the assembled media what she thought of them.

The venue of the wedding was a tightly-held secret in the lead-up to the event.

While more than one news organisation managed to wrangle what will no doubt be dubbed “exclusive” access, others waited outside the estate to get a glimpse of the party.

Sam Khizkail, who organised the doves for the wedding  – two released during the ceremony, another four “show dancing doves” – had been told the ceremony was in Lidcombe before receiving a text from Ms Mehajer on Thursday.

“My wedding location has been changed,” she told him.

Among the stellar wedding guests was Hollywood actress and model Olivia Culpo, who is famous for winning the Miss USA 2012 pageant.

At 6pm, the wedding guests regrouped at Doltone House’s Hyde Park venue on Elizabeth Street for a reception. Lingering media crews were left hanging with the bridal party who were nowhere to be seen, having presumably arrived earlier or by an alternative entry.

The family’s enigmatic media statement hinted at cheeky decoy addresses and information to deter uninvited guests.

The cloak of darkness extended to the wedding’s reception. Despite the Mehajer family tagging photos with the wedding’s hashtag, #IKS2016, on Instagram since February, the couple’s reception was celebrated in a social media blackout with guests banned from using their phones upon entry.

Still, the arrival of guests to the luxury venue provided momentary interest to passersby as luxury cars played cat and mouse with buses stopping outside. Fur jackets and bejewelled evening dresses, including the bride’s shimmering Steven Khalil gown, were the outfit du jour.

The guests either feigned ignorance of the night’s proceedings or were similarly kept in the dark. One woman in a stunning lace Jovani dress smiled and said, “I just know it will be so nice.”

Ibraham Sakalaki and Khadijeh Mehajer exchanged Islamic vows at an intimate gathering the previous weekend.

Additional reporting by Phoebe Maloney

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07 Jun

Christian Dior slammed for running Johnny Depp Sauvage campaign in Australia

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Commuters walk past the Dior Sauvage advertisement featuring Johnny Depp outside David Jones’ Sydney CBD store. Photo: Dominic LorrimerChristian Dior is under fire in Australia for an advertising campaign fronted by Johnny Depp.
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Billboards, store fronts and bus stops around Sydney and Melbourne are covered in images of Depp emblazoned with the word “Sauvage”, a French term meaning “wild”.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star was announced as the face of Sauvage last year, Dior’s first fragrance for men in 10 years.

The renewed push of the Sauvage campaign comes just days after Depp and Amber Heard settled their contentious divorce amid allegations of domestic violence. Heard claimed Depp repeatedly abused her during their 18-month marriage, before withdrawing the claims.

They reached a $9 million agreement, funds that Heard has since donated to the  American Civil Liberties Union to helps its efforts in combating violence against women.

Dior’s ongoing relationship with Depp has angered Australian consumers and “a couple of complaints” about the Sauvage ad have been submitted to the Advertising Standard Bureau, ASB chief Fiona Jolly said.

Ms Jolly wouldn’t specify the exact nature of the compliants, saying: “They centre around the use of the actor in the advertisements.”

A Dior representative refused to comment when approached by Fairfax Media about the commercial’s timing.

“Parfums Christian Dior does not wish to comment on the personal matters of Ms Heard and Mr Depp. It is our understanding that the matter has been settled,” a Dior spokesperson said.

David Jones has featured the commercial outside its menswear store on Market Street.

“These are part of a national campaign Dior launched this week for its men’s fragrance Sauvage,” a David Jones spokesperson said on Friday.

The advertisement was also published in the latest issue of the AFR magazine, owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of The Sun-Herald.

Dr Andrew Hughes, lecturer in marketing at the Australian National University’s Research School of Management, criticised the continued use of Depp in the campaign, saying: “It looks cheap. It looks like they don’t care about the market. With this advertisement Dior are essentially saying ‘I’m out of touch’. We live in the age of social media where recall is only one click away so even people who aren’t aware of the claims would be able to find out what they are.”

Heard filed for divorce in May before obtaining a restraining order accusing Depp of hitting her, sparking a media frenzy and extensive, worldwide coverage.

Heard withdrew the claims after a video of Depp yelling at her and images of a mirror allegedly covered in Depp’s blood after he cut off the tip of his finger during a domestic dispute, were made public.

After their settlement, Depp and Heard released a joint statement acknowledging the volatility of their relationship.

“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love … There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm,” the statement said.

The only positive to the Dior campaign, according to Dr Hughes, is that the issue of domestic violence is back in the headlines. “It’s relevant now around Father’s Day and with specific messages to men about how certain actions can have a huge negative impact.”

This isn’t the first international controversy Dior has faced.

In 2011, following a racist and anti-Semitic tirade that was filmed, creative director John Galliano was stood down after the fashion house faced international condemnation.

Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732; Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491

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07 Jun

Anna Heinrich tells of life with The Bachelor and all that marriage pressure

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The Bachelor Australia winner Anna Heinrich (left) with Kate Waterhouse. Heinrich keeps her media role separate from her career as a lawyer. Photo: Kate Geraghty Anna Heinrich (left) with Kate Waterhouse at Wild Basket in Neutral Bay. Photo: Kate Geraghty
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Anna Heinrich makes a splash with Tim Robards at Derby Day Fashions on the Field at Flemington Racecourse. Photo: Simon Schluter

Anna Heinrich found fame when she stole the heart of Tim Robards in the first season of TV’s The Bachelor Australia in 2013. Fast forward three years and the couple are still going strong and have since become one of Australia’s most recognised couples. When Heinrich, 29, isn’t attending A-list events she works part-time as a criminal lawyer and is the blogger behind Love Always Anna. She tells Kate Waterhouse about how The Bachelor has changed her life, the pressures on her relationship and how she copes with media attention.

What is a day in your life? It really depends on the day… I’m still working as a [criminal] lawyer. I’m in there every week, and my boss has been so good to me for the past three or four years. I like keeping my foot in that door. I’ve [also] been working with Nike for about almost eight months now. When I first started, I did their Training Club Tour, a big all-women event … I’m also working with Pandora and Oral B and I’m busy working on my blog.

You were the first girl to win The Bachelor Australia. How has that impacted your life? I don’t think I ever knew how it would change my life… [Tim] is my first boyfriend and it has almost been three years…I’m also doing a lot of media-related things that I never thought I would ever do.

What do you love most about Tim? I actually love everything about him. I know it sounds so cliche, but I love his determination. He is very open with everything … He is very good looking, too!

Should we expect a marriage proposal anytime soon? I’m definitely not engaged at the moment [laughs] but I think it will come. There has been that pressure ever since we got together.

Does being in the media spotlight put pressure on your relationship? It does, but I’m not going to let it affect our relationship. We know it’s always going to be there, but I think what’s really good about us is we haven’t just gotten married for everybody else. We’re doing it in our own time and when it happens, it’s as real as anyone else’s marriage.

Is there pressure to get married? We know it’s all there and we know everyone is constantly watching and waiting, but I think that’s what I love about him so much, that he hasn’t sort of succumbed to the whole pressure. For us, it’s about getting to know each other and that’s exactly what we’re doing, we love each other’s company and it’s not so much about, “Let’s get married straight away to please other people”.

Is it strange to have the public know your intimate details of your love life? I don’t tell everybody everything, but we do feel somewhat of responsibility to share as much as we can with people because they’ve grown with us from the beginning.

After the show and when you officially began dating, there was speculation of the authenticity of your relationship. Have those rumours been put to rest now? Yes, there are rumours about us probably every couple of weeks – either that we’ve broken up or there is some problem. But whenever it is, it’s always other people; I think they just find that an interesting story.

The Bachelor is currently airing its fourth season. Who do you think will win? It’s too hard to call at this stage as there are so many amazing women still left in the house. I’ll leave this one up to Richie [Strahan]!

What would be your advice to someone going into the show? Be prepared, and I think knowing that it’s not always what you expect. It’s very different from what people see on TV … You do an hour or two-hour interview and they may not even use that interview, or if they do, it’s basically one line. So be prepared, and go in it for the right reasons. I think being the first [season], we didn’t know what to expect. I was doing law at the time [and] thinking it was going to be more of a hindrance … Go in to it because you want to [fall in love with] someone and hope that you do in the end.

Tell me about your blog. My blog is called Love Always Anna. Initially I wanted it to be a lifestyle blog [but] I’m now focusing more on fashion and beauty.

What do you love about having a blog? It has been a great way for me to share more positive and personal insights into my life. I was surprised how quickly it connected with my readers and I love receiving their comments about my recipes, travels and tips. I’ve started focusing more on fashion and styling to make it a place where readers can come to for inspiration. It is a case of “watch this space”, I guess!

What is your role within your law firm? I’m pretty much everything. I’m a lawyer, I’m the bookkeeper, I’m admin. I do it all when I’m in there. I do go into court in certain trials.

Do people recognise you from The Bachelor during court trials? There has been [an] occasion where I was in court and I turned around and this woman was being like “I love you” to me and I didn’t know if it was me or who she was looking at. I kept turning around and then I was like, “me?” and she is like, “I love you”. I was like, “This is the most awkward situation I’ve had in the court.” I do my best to kind of keep both separate – my legal career and my media career. There is no way they’re not going to overlap, but I try and keep it as separate. So I’ve got to make sure I uphold a good image and that doesn’t jeopardise my legal career because I’m still doing it.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? I hope that I’m still doing what I’m doing. I love having this balance of still doing law and also my media career.

What do you do in your spare time, when you’re not working? We love to travel, if we can go away for a weekend, whether it is within Australia or somewhere international. We love to even go to Bali for like three days. We’re both into sports. So we’ll be out training … playing tennis with the family. I’ll be hanging with my family a lot. Go over to my mum’s house for “Jude’s food”; get everyone over for dinner.Katewaterhouse杭州m   BITE SIZE

WE WENT TO Wild Basket, Neutral Bay

WE DRANK  Peppermint tea and a cappuccino

ANNA WORE Rebecca Vallance dress, Stanzee leather jacket, Pandora jewellery

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07 May

Salim Mehajer’s date Constance Siaflas parachuted into wedding party after marriage split

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Kat Mehajer arrives with brother Salim’s date Constance Siaflas. Photo: Andrew Murray Salim Mehajer and Constance Siaflas at the wedding. Photo: Andrew Murray
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Salim Mehajer yells at his estranged wife in a video broadcast by the Nine Network. Photo: A Current Affair.

She was pictured as one of six maids of honour just months ago when the bridal festivities kicked off. But Salim Mehajer’s estranged wife, Aysha Learmonth, appears to have been swiftly replaced by a pouting look-a-like at the notorious family’s latest wedding.

Khadijeh “Kat” Mehajer, younger sister to former Auburn deputy mayor Salim, and her new husband, Ibraham Sakalaki, dazzled suburban Sydney on Saturday with their lavish nuptials.

Despite having little apparent history with the family, flight attendant Constance Siaflas was parachuted into Kat’s bridal party at the last minute.

Siaflas, previously known for her five-second fling with pop singer Cody Simpson, arrived as Salim’s date to the million-dollar reception at the Longuevue Mansion in Kenthurst.

Mehajer has posted several gushing tributes to Siaflas on Instagram in the past week following the explosive A Current Affair report revealing terrifying videos of him abusing Learmonth and threatening to rape her.

Until then, he was insisting he was still happily married to Learmonth – who has reverted to her maiden name following the split – and was posting heartfelt tributes to her on his social media platforms.

Now, it appears to be all about Siaflas.

“Just be yourself and have fun,” he posted from the wedding, alongside a photo of him and Siaflas looking into each other’s eyes.

“Night too [sic] remember,” Siaflas posted on Sunday morning.

Both Siaflas and Mehajer have denied they are an item. Indeed, Mehajer was still wearing his wedding ring on Sunday despite his much publicised break-up with his wife.

Earlier on Saturday, Siaflas Snapchatted a photo of herself getting ready in just a towel.   Congratulations beautiful Kat @katmehajer A photo posted by CONSTANCE (@constancesiaf) on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:58pm PDT

Later, she emerged in a pink, bejewelled Doll House tutu dress along with Kat’s other five bridesmaids, including her sisters Aiisha, Mary and Sanaa Mehajer and friend Anita.

The wedding moved from Kenthurst to Doltone House’s Hyde Park venue on Saturday evening where guests were asked to refrain from social media.   Just be yourself and have funA photo posted by Offical ᴱᴺᵀᴿᴱᴾᴿᴱᴺᴱᵁᴿ (@salim.mehajer) on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:33pm PDT

Despite the ban, the wedding’s selfie-loving crowd couldn’t resist posting photos of guests revelling among the dozens of motorbikes, luxury cars, drummers, flowers and a towering wedding cake taller than the bride and groom.

American model and actress Olivia Culpo was invited to the wedding as a “special guest”.

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07 May

Renee Zellweger told not to gain weight for Bridget Jones’s Baby

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Will Bridget Jones finally make it down the aisle in the third film in the popular franchise? Renee Zellweger is back but Hugh Grant is absent from the new Bridget Jones movie. Photo: Supplied
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that Bridget Jones’ main vices are Daniel Cleaver and diets.

In the books, and subsequent film versions which premiered in 2001 and 2004 respectively, each diary entry began with a snapshot of her calorie intake.

Her weight has been a common trope of the hapless heroine’s narrative that began in the ’90s via Helen Fielding’s column inThe Independent newspaper.

“8st 13, alcohol units 2 (excellent), cigarettes 7, calories 3100 (poor),” is how Jones was introduced to the world on February 28, 1995.

Fast forward 21 years and Jones, in the new film Bridget Jones’s Baby, has achieved her “ideal weight”.

“In her mind she had a weight issue. She didn’t have a weight issue it was just this imagined ideal that she was trying to achieve. What I love is that while she’s achieved it her life isn’t anymore together, she makes it OK for people to be imperfect and I think that’s what we connect to,” star Renee Zellweger said.

While Zellweger was looking forward to piling on the 13 kilograms again like she did for the first two instalments in the franchise, director Sharon Maguire wanted to put Jones’ body image issues to bed to focus on the issues impacting on her life as a 43-year-old pregnant single woman.

“It was a decision the director had made, she was hopeful that we could show that just by achieving this personal ideal of about how you’re supposed to be it doesn’t necessarily mean that your life is suddenly going to be perfect and make sense,” Zellweger said.

“I like the message in that.

“It was a matter of choosing how she has evolved so that the ways in which she hasn’t stand out more prominently. Because I think the ways she hasn’t changed are much more important.”

Zellweger too has evolved since she was cast in the breakout role 15 years ago. She disappeared from Hollywood for five years, returned to study, wrote scripts, travelled the world and fell in love after she had her four-month marriage to country singer Kenny Chesney annulled in 2005.

Bridget Jones’s Baby marks her return to the big screen and the versatile actor, who already conquered indie, period drama and musicals before her sabbatical, is hungry for more.

“It’s fun. You want to evolve. You want to keep going. I don’t want to keep doing the same thing, telling the same stories, I’m ready, let’s go. Human experience gives you character and it makes the characters that you are prepared to play much more interesting.”

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07 May

Masters deal creates Australia’s largest large-format landlord

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The Masters stores are estimated to cover about 700,000 square metres combined. David Di Pilla is leading the consortium that is buying the Masters portfolio. Photo: Louise Kennerley
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Rich-lister Zac Fried, who parts owns the Anaconda and Spotlight stores, is in the consortium. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Woolworths’ sale of its Masters stores will propel a consortium of wealthy private families to become Australia’s largest retail landlord, overtaking shopping giant Harvey Norman.

The 61 Masters stores, estimated to cover about 700,000 square metres combined, will close their doors for good on or before December 11 after being offloaded this week to Home Consortium –  a company controlled by the families behind Aurrum Group, Spotlight Group and Chemist Warehouse – in an $800 million deal.

The single transaction will give a handful of well-known rich-listers a large-format property empire to rival retail kings Gerry Harvey and Brett Blundy.

The Home Consortium includes Melbourne-based Chemist Warehouse owners Mario Verrochi and Jack Gance and retail rich-listers Zac Fried and Morry Fraid who own the Anaconda and Spotlight stores.

The consortium is being led by UBS banker David Di Pilla, who is a major investor, along with his parents-in-law Mary and Alex Shaw, and Greg Hayes. Others chipping in to the consortium are UBS directors Robbie Vanderzeil and Matthew Grounds.

The Shaws and Hayes are major investors behind aged-care start-up Aurrum.

Insiders suggest the consortium managed to outflank other circling property powerhouses – fund giant Blackstone and local heavyweights Charter Hall, Vicinity and Stockland – by offering a retailer-led concept complete with pre-leases to tenants like Spotlight, Anaconda and Chemist Warehouse.

“They not only went with cash but a substantial pre-leasing commitment to demonstrate they could turn this around,” a source close to the deal said.

“It’s as close to turnkey as you can get,” they said. “That’s what won them the day.”

The consortium expects to have first centres refitted and open between April and June next year.

The wind-up of Masters, foreshadowed for months, will see a fire sale of all the store’s hardware stock and thousands of workers losing their jobs, although the new owners expect to create a similar number of jobs in the new retail centres.

The flood of empty space has concerned some industry watchers.

“While it is still early days, this is a negative read-through for large-format retail given the potential for new competing supply to come online,” Macquarie Bank said in a research note.

Others welcomed the deal. “It’s great news for the industry,” said Philippa Kelly, chief executive of the Large Format Retail Association, which represents an industry with a turnover of $66 billion a year that employs 425,000 people.

“There has been a shortage of supply of new space in the last few years,” she said.

CBRE’s head of large format retail Chris Parry said his firm investigated the Masters portfolio and found significant demand for new space among the nation’s largest retailers.

“We were quite surprised at how much demand there was,” he said.

Home Consortium said it was already negotiating with retailers including Anaconda, JB Hi-FI, Super Amart, BBQs Galore, Woolworths Supermarkets and Dan Murphy’s to take over some of the 61 freehold properties.

The deal to offload Masters is still subject to approval from Woolworths’ US-based joint-venture partner Lowe’s.

It covers 40 trading freehold stores, 21 development sites and 21 Masters leasehold sites which the consortium plans to repurpose into multi‐tenant large-format centres.

Woolworths said it will acquire three Masters freehold sites and take assignment of 12 leases to facilitate the deal.

Rival hardware giant Bunnings was quick to jump on plum locations, confirming it planned to take over 15 Masters sites.

“Eleven of the 15 locations will be replacement stores and provide us with a great opportunity to improve our offer in these areas,”  Bunnings CEO John Gillam said.

The process of re-letting and subdividing stores could take up to five months, he estimates.

Bunnings’ deal with Home Consortium will see it lease six freehold sites, two development sites and seven of Masters leaseholds.

The two freehold development sites Bunnings intends to lease will require normal development approvals before it can build and open its warehouses.

The other leg of Woolworths’ Masters divestment, a deal to sell its Home Hardware chain to Mitre 10’s owner Metcash for $165 million, will create a new 1800-store competitor to Bunnings.

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07 May

VW to pay $1.6 billion to US dealers hurt by diesel emissions scandal

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Not that long ago, Volkswagen dealerships were among the hottest properties in the retail auto business.
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The German brand was growing rapidly, and an ambitious goal of tripling sales in the United States to more than 800,000 cars a year seemed within reach, helped by increasingly popular diesel models and a new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. With the future looking bright, buyers as recently as 2014 typically paid premiums of $US3 million ($3.9 million) to $US4 million to acquire Volkswagen franchises in the United States.

But the diesel scandal that erupted almost a year ago, setting off a plunge in Volkswagen sales, changed all that. Some dealers who tried to sell their franchises in the last year found their dealerships were worth little more than the value of the land they stood on and their inventory of cars and spare parts, according to brokers involved in dealership sales.

Now help is on the way.

On Thursday, Volkswagen told a federal judge it had reached a basic agreement to compensate its 650 dealers in the United States for the troubles they have suffered.

The company declined to disclose specific terms of the pact, saying they were still being determined, but a person briefed on the matter said the company was prepared to pay as much as $US1.2 billion to offset the declining value of the Volkswagen franchises.

That figure, on top of whatever Volkswagen will end up spending to buy back unsold and unfixable diesels from the dealers, would work out to an average of $US1.85 million per dealer – although the amounts will vary, depending on the size of the dealership and other factors.

“We believe this agreement in principle with Volkswagen dealers is a very important step in our commitment to making things right for all our stakeholders in the United States,” Hinrich Woebcken, chief executive of Volkswagen’s North American operations, said in a statement. Sitting on unsold stock

The agreement with dealers was described in general terms in court in San Francisco on Thursday before the federal judge, Charles Breyer, who is overseeing the cases against Volkswagen by the government, car owners and the dealers.

”They have cars on their lots they can’t sell,” Steve Berman, the lawyer for the dealers, told Breyer. “Their franchise value has gone down. And they have invested millions in these Volkswagen franchises. So we are pleased that the settlement will address the financial harm that they’ve incurred.”

Volkswagen fell into turmoil last September after admitting it had equipped nearly 600,000 diesel models sold in the United States with “defeat device” software that allowed the cars to cheat on emissions tests and spew far more pollutants than allowed in regular driving.

The deal with its car dealers comes some two months after the German carmaker agreed to pay nearly $US15 billion, a record, to settle claims in the US by Volkswagen owners and regulators.

In June the company, government and lawyers for car owners reached a settlement covering some 500,000 cars equipped with 2.0-litre diesel engines. Under that accord, the company will spend as much as $US10 billion to buy back affected cars at their prescandal values and pay additional cash compensation to owners. Models include the Volkswagen Jetta and Passat.

Lawyers for the company and the government who were in the courtroom Thursday told Breyer that they were still working on how to fix or otherwise resolve the status of about 80,000 Volkswagen Audi and Porsche models with 3.0-litre diesel engines that were equipped with emissions-cheating software. ‘Big, big hit’

The dealer settlement announced Thursday stems from a lawsuit filed in April by the owner of three Volkswagen franchises, seeking compensation for the economic damage to the dealerships.

One of the potential beneficiaries, Jeff Williams, owner of Williams Auto World in Lansing, Michigan, said on Thursday that he welcomed the compensation agreement but that the toll on his business had been heavy.

“In 2012, we sold 477 new Volkswagens,” Williams said. “So far this year, we’ve sold 86 new. That’s a big, big hit.”

But he expressed hope for 2017. Next spring, Volkswagen is expected to introduce an all-new gasoline-powered sport utility vehicle, which had been sorely missing from the Volkswagen lineup. “Once we get some SUVs, that ought to kick-start things,” Williams said.

In 2015, the Volkswagen brand sold nearly 350,000 cars in the United States, down from 438,134 in 2012. But most of the 2015 sales were made before the diesel cheating was disclosed. In the first seven months of this year, Volkswagen sales have slipped 13.6 per cent to 205,742 vehicles.

For dealers, that decline is compounded by the fact that many invested millions of dollars to expand their stores in expectation of rising sales.

“VW said the dealers needed bigger facilities because they were going to be a volume player,” said Alan Haig, president of Haig Partners, a dealership advisory firm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “So this has been a disastrous turn of events for them.”

The New York Times

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07 May

ASX slips as profit season peaks, eyes turn to Federal Reserve

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The ASX 200 ended the week down just 0.2 per cent. Photo: Brendon ThorneProfit season moved up a gear in its last big week as did the wild swings of the share prices of many reporting companies, however, the sharemarket ended the week stagnant in anticipation of a speech from US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.
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The S&P/ASX 200 traded within the range of 5510 to 5570 points all week, but on Friday fell 0.5 per cent, or 26 points, to 5515.5, while the All Ordinaries ended 0.4 per cent, or 24 points, lower at 5607.4. The benchmark index closed just 0.2 per cent lower for the week.

Woolworths was among the blue chips reporting this week that turned heads, posting a $1.2 billion loss, however its shares pushed higher as investors bet that the worst of the pain is over for the retailer’s restructuring. Its shares did however hand back some of its strong gains on Friday. Wesfarmers also lifted despite its profit plunge, and the consumer staples index ended 2.6 per cent higher, the week’s best performing sector.

Qantas shares soared after the airline broke its seven-year dividend drought, declaring a 7¢ fully franked dividend while posting a record pre-tax profit of $1.5 billion and announcing a $500 million buyback, but the stock failed to hang on to its gains to end the week.

Fortescue Metals Group also shined, delivering a much higher than expected 12¢ a share dividend after lifting its net profit by 212 per cent.

Market darling Blackmores, however, suffered a 20 per cent intraday fall after the company more than doubled its profit to $100 million but warned its first quarter results would be lower than the previous year.

On Friday, the reporting companies included Coca-Cola Amatil, Corporate Travel Management, Mayne Pharma, Saracen Mineral, Select Harvests, Star Entertainment and Super Retail Group, which was among the day’s best performing stocks, up 6 per cent. Select Harvests was among the laggers, falling 6.7 per cent on its update.

“Across the market as a whole, company earnings for the financial year 30 June 2016, are down on the previous year by around 8 percent, but this reflects the major impact of resource companies where average earnings fell 48 percent,” Australian Unity Investments chief executive David Bryant said.

“Excluding this, company profits have grown around 5 percent this financial year. Overall it has been a fairly stable reporting season, without too much unexpected bad news.” Market moversJackson Hole

Global markets were fixated on news from the US Federal Reserve’s annual meeting at Jackson Hole in Wyoming this week. While chatter has given little indication that Fed members will provide any clues to the timing around further interest rate rises in the world’s biggest economy, local investors have the weekend to digest a speech from Fed chair Janet Yellen due on Friday night. Currencies

The Australian dollar joined global risk assets in sideways trade as investors patiently awaited news from Jackson Hole. Central bank monetary policy remains the main game and the US dollar has remained stagnant in anticipation. However expectations are low that Yellen’s commentary on timing will be explicit and analysts expect any short term spike in the US dollar to be shortlived. The Australian dollar firmed above US76¢ on Friday, buying US76.40¢ in late local trade. Commodities

While oil prices had a volatile week amid speculation ahead of an OPEC meeting in September, iron ore continued its stability, on track for its fourth weekly gain out of five. The benchmark iron ore price slipped 0.4 per cent overnight to $US61.44, a more than three month high, and analysts from ANZ expect its strength to continue into September with steel producers rebuilding their stockpiles ahead of China’s G20 summit. Japan

Core inflation data from Japan on Friday cast further doubt over the success of prime minister Shinzo Abe’s ‘Abenomics’ policy while raising expectations of further easing. Data revealed consumer prices dropped 0.5 per cent from a year earlier, below the expected 0.4 per cent fall, capping off five straight months of contraction. Despite its expansive stimulus program, the data shows businesses and consumers are stuck in a deflationary mindset. Stock watch: Ardent Leisure

Investors cheered Ardent Leisure’s full-year result on Wednesday after it reported a 32 per cent increase in net profit to $42.4 million. Bell Potter analyst John O’Shea said the results reflected the company’s crystal clear strategy: it is all about entertainment, a comment echoed by chief executive Deborah Thomas. Ardent’s share price has risen 36 per cent this month as it strips off its gym and marinas businesses to focus on its bowling, entertainment centres and theme parks. “In our view this change increases the likelihood the company will be re-rated over time,” Mr O’Shea said, retaining a ‘buy’ rating on the stock and lifting the price target from $2.57 to $3.13.

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