One.Tel to finally die in November, 16 years after collapse

Final liquidators' meeting to wrap up billionaire boys fun phone adventure

Burning AU$100

Infamous Australian telco One.Tel is finally being read its last rites. The Register understands that the the final meeting of members and creditors will take place in August and it is expected that regulators will erase the company from their registers three months later.

One.Tel collapsed in 2001 after a short-but-colourful existence in which it gathered hundreds of thousands of mobile phone subscribers, floated, made paper millionaires of its founders and attracted investments from Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer.

But as chronicled in Paul Barry's Rich Kids, the company was built on sand. Customers found mobile services unreliable and complained of lengthy waits for help from the company's call centre. To hide the mess, the company's managers simply emptied its call centres before investors visited, creating an impression of calm when the company was in chaos.

Cash flow was a particular problem, as the company tried to build its own 3G network while also discounting heavily and doing odd things like giving away extra handsets to subscribers.

Despite attempts to raise more cash, the company eventually collapsed in early 2001, taking hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs with it. Packer and Murdoch claimed they were "profoundly misled" by the company's executives.

Years of disputes followed but all now appear to have been resolved as in late July liquidator Ferrier Hodgson advised creditors that it's done all it can to wrap things up.

A notice of a final members and creditors meeting seen by The Register says the final meeting will take place in mid-August and that the liquidator expects the Australian Securities and Investment Commission will formally deregister the company three months later.

The notice of the final meeting says AU$88,895,541.03 has been recovered and returned to shareholders, at a rate of 100 cents in the dollar for priority creditors and 26.03 cents on the dollar for unsecured creditors.

One.Tel's most public leader, Jodee Rich founded a social intelligence outfit called PeopleBrowsr and has sold domains in the .CEO namespace. James Packer steered the company business away from media and telecoms into gaming. Lachlan Murdoch is co-chairman of News Corp and sits on its board. ®


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