Billionaire behind Souths’ Inglis bid
Phil Rothfield and David Riccio
The Sunday Telegraph
November 7, 2010 12:01am
WEST Australian mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has emerged as the mystery man behind South Sydney’s $2 million attempt to sign NRL superstar Greg Inglis after the Broncos withdrew its offer yesterday.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal Forrest has joined forces with Russell Crowe and Anthony Mundine to try to pull off the Rabbitohs’ greatest signing coup.
The Broncos ran out of patience with Inglis Saturday, sensationally withdrawing a two-year deal worth more than $1 million.
We have worked long and hard on these negotiations, as have the other parties, said Broncos chief executive Bruno Cullen.
But with training already underway and no sign of the matter being resolved in a manner that would benefit the Broncos and its playing roster, it is time for the club to move on"
Forrest has offered Inglis more than $100,000 a year to act as an ambassador for Generation One, his public awareness campaign designed to encourage employers across the country to offer jobs to indigenous people.
The deal is salary-cap exempt as third-party employment but is conditional on the Test and Origin champion playing for the Rabbitohs.
Other clubs, including Parramatta, the Bulldogs, the Warriors and the Raiders could also enter a bidding war but it’s understood the deal is all but done with the Rabbitohs.
The billionaire businessman Forrest is one of Australia’s most connected entrepreneurs. He has regular contact with James Packer, the Murdoch family, politicians and other leading corporate types.
It is believed he was introduced to the Rabbitohs through part-owner Peter Holmes a Court, an old Perth boy who still has an extensive network of contacts in the west.
Inglis spent yesterday with his fiancee in Brisbane, having been given a 24-hour deadline to sign with the Broncos - or leave.
The ultimatum was delivered to his agent Alan Gainey yesterday as the champion centre was weighing up the huge deal with Forrest on top of more than $300,000 Souths can pay him.
As exclusively revealed in The Sunday Telegraph two weeks ago, Inglis’s deal with the Broncos fell over because of an unpaid $113,000 legal bill that has to be settled with the Melbourne Storm before he will be granted a release.
The Broncos refused to pay the bill because it would put them over the salary cap, but Souths claim they can squeeze him in on a back-ended deal.
How this could be achieved without having to shed another star player is the biggest talking point among other clubs. They are preparing to challenge NRL boss David Gallop and demand answers from salary cap auditor Ian Schubert if it goes ahead.
Mundine’s role in the negotiations is also under the spotlight.
The Sunday Telegraph understands he offered to pay the legal bill to get the clearance from the Storm, but the NRL ruled any payment by Mundine would still have to be included in the cap.
“It’s clearly a payment that is going to get him to that club,” Gallop said yesterday. The Broncos insisted yesterday they had given Inglis every opportunity to wear their colours.
“'We think it is an honour to represent our club and thus felt compelled to place a deadline of this afternoon for Greg to sign the contract he and his manager had agreed to,” Cullen said.
"He was unable to commit to the club so we felt we had to make this call. When the possibility of Greg coming to the Broncos arose some months ago, the club always said it was entering negotiations only because of the stature of the player involved.
"But we also said at the time that we were very happy and confident in the squad we had assembled.
"We thank the Storm and the NRL for their co-operation, and wish Greg all the best with his future and hope he can resolve it to his satisfaction.
“We know that this move will ensure the club is able to keep our current crop of talent together for many seasons to come.”
It’s believed Mundine has changed tack and offered to pay all legal expenses in a court action against the Storm over the disputed bill.
“Choc doesn’t like seeing any of his brothers getting dudded,” said a close friend of Inglis. “He’s vowed to back him to hilt.”
Making matters more complicated for Inglis was the prospect of challenging the Storm over the legal fees if he played in Brisbane. That would have meant a News Limited employee suing a News Limited-owned club.
The irony of Inglis returning to Brisbane yesterday to be with fiancee Sally Robinson is the Test centre only gained a release from the Storm on compassionate grounds after she was transferred to Queensland by her employers.
It’s those original terms of release that has left the Storm club bewildered by a potential move to Sydney.
“We’re just as confused as the rest of the marketplace,” Storm CEO Ron Gauci said.
"It was on compassionate grounds [that the Storm offered to release Inglis], and that was his request.
"All of these admissions were agreed upon, and supposedly they’re now reneging on those agreements.
“It’s very confusing.”
Gauci maintained the Storm’s position hadn’t changed in regards to paying the legal bill and added that the saga had left such a sour taste that it was unlikely Inglis would be seen in Melbourne colours again.
Totally Off-Topic but Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s amazing yacht ‘Pangaea’ is moored in Rose Bay this week. RM Williams business and/or Sophia Forrest’s Birthday party??