Fran O'Sullivan on business

Business analysis and comment from Herald columnist Fran O'Sullivan

Fran O'Sullivan: Dotcom and Brown peas in a pod of vain showmen

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Pair under pressure for different reasons but have pretty thick hides

Kim Dotcom (left) and Len Brown both enjoy the limelight. Photo / APN
Kim Dotcom (left) and Len Brown both enjoy the limelight. Photo / APN

Kim Dotcom and Len Brown are linked by several personal characteristics. Both are showmen. Both are prone to vanity. Both hate being out of the limelight.

In the personality world that drives mainstream media coverage these days, each of them is also a long-running news story.

This week, each man was under a new round of pressure.

Dotcom because the Court of Appeal found the police raid on his rented mansion was legal (but that the police giving the FBI the seized material was an unauthorised legal breach). The Herald's splash showing Dotcom (or his companies) had not paid a number of small creditors while he ostentatiously lived high on the hog did not help his reputation.

But his natural audacity and fighting spirit keep him centre-stage.

Brown is also endowed with fighting spirit. He has a thick hide when it comes to public opprobrium. He was booed at the Auckland Nines and was asked not to attend a community military tattoo this weekend.

At noon today protesters will march up Queen St asking for him to resign as Mayor of Auckland.

The natural instinct of most people coming under huge legal or professional pressure is to hunker down. Go "out into the snow" for a while, as Labour's feisty MP Shane Jones did when he ran into a spot of embarrassing bother a couple of years back.

Brown can also do that.

Surely by now he's getting some wise counsel to just give Aucklanders a bit of a breather.

Allow the embarrassment to subside before pushing himself centre-stage again. Let the councillors or the chief executives or chairs of the council-controlled organisations hog the public announcements of all the new hotels and other city business developments.

Share the credit with those who have done the hard negotiations and not just promote himself as the only "face of Auckland".

Such a step would reduce public nervousness of him.

Because "business as usual" only works when it is business as usual. Think about it.

For Dotcom, it's an entirely different affair.

As today's Len Brown protesters make their way into town, they will have spied Dotcom's smiling face on the back of a bus promoting his Good Times album.

Dotcom is a master at conditioning the public.

His showmanship keeps him in the public eye sufficiently to create a considerable constituency that has come to be on his side. This is a constituency that does not like heavy-handed police tactics and makes heroes out of people such as Edward Snowden.

It intrigues me how Dotcom has tried to align himself with Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In his mind the trio are victims of state oppression. Governments clearly take a different view.

Snowden and Assange steal Government and company secrets. The FBI alleges Dotcom effectively allowed others to steal intellectual property by not responding in full to "take down" requests for his Megaupload site.

His Internet Party (still yet to be publicly launched) is another attempt to stick it to John Key.

Launching political parties is a democratic right. But it's rather on the nose that a resident who is yet to become a citizen should be able to play fast and furious with our electoral system.

What is sure is that his ability to stay permanently in this country and stave off the United States' extradition bid is enhanced by the high-handed behaviour of our authorities.

It's clear from my last column that I hold no brief for Dotcom.

But the illegal behaviour of our own authorities remains a national scandal and adds to the list of episodes such as the Tuhoe raids where police have broken the rules, and we all ought to be mighty concerned.

In Brown's case, a bid by Graham McCready to take a private prosecution against him has been ruled out by the High Court, which said it wasn't a criminal matter.

McCready did not produce any hard evidence to justify his allegations of corruption and money-laundering, just conjecture based on accountant EY's report into Brown's spending as Auckland's mayor. But the Waiheke resident who is mustering today's turnout against Brown is also making a similar allegation.

This is dangerous territory.

McCready clearly had a victory when he pushed the system into taking action against John Banks for not declaring his "anonymous" donations from Dotcom.

But McCready has not produced hard evidence on Brown. Hounding politicians with trumped-up allegations is not a savoury sight.

- NZ Herald

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