Former Satellite chairman Kerryn Phelps was reading the Sunday Telegraph gossip pages -“ an unpleasant habit -“ when she heard of Satellite boss Greg Fisher’s financial involvement with designer Alex Perry.

According to evidence Dr Phelps gave in court this week, she read an article called Perry’s In The Pink in Ros Reines’s column on 7 May 2000. After reading the article, which suggested Fisher was Perry’s new backer and was providing the designer with $500,000, Phelps said she called the Satellite managing director to ask him about it.

Phelps told the court she telephoned Fisher within 48 hours of reading the article and told him she hoped the money wasn’t from Satellite funds. Fisher responded that money given to Perry was, in fact, a personal investment.

Fisher has been charged with dishonestly using his position as a director of Satellite to gain personal advantage. The charges relate to approximately $220,000 in payments made to Alex Perry in April, May and June 2000 -“ which were used to fund Perry’s 2000 Mercedes Fashion Week show.

The six charges arise from an Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) investigation into the collapse of Satellite, a property and media company which floated on the Australian Stock Exchange on 23 September 1999 and went into administration in November 2000.

At the time of its float, Satellite was billed as the world’s first pink company and owned a stable of gay and lesbian newspapers and magazines. These included the Melbourne-based OutRage Magazine and Sydney Star Observer rival Capital Q.

In Phelps’s cross-examination, Fisher’s barrister Charles Waterstreet suggested the phone conversation between Phelps and Fisher had never taken place -“ rather, it was her memory playing tricks on her. Waterstreet told the court Phelps had previously made a statement to ASIC about Fisher’s involvement with Alex Perry and had not included any information about the phone conversation.

Phelps denied that her memory of the incident was incorrect. She told the court she had told her partner Jackie Stricker, who was in court to hear evidence on Tuesday, about her phone call to Fisher soon after it happened.

The only other involvement the prominent Sydney GP had with Alex Perry was when the designer was commissioned to make dresses for Phelps and Stricker for a portrait sitting, she told the court. The portrait, Jackie And Kerryn (2001) by Jenny Sages, got a special mention by the trustees of the Art Gallery of NSW in the Archibald Prize competition.

The court also heard evidence from former Satellite board member Greg Gahl, who said during his time as head of Satellite’s media arm he was unsure of how he was being paid.

When Gahl came onto the board -“ he had previously been the publisher of Capital Q -“ he was offered $276,000 cash up front, and 50 percent of any profits from Satellite’s media companies. Gahl told the court he later believed that arrangement had been changed -“ to a $100,000 payment, shares in the company and a further $2 million when Satellite Media was eventually listed on the Stock Exchange. The company was never listed.

Fisher is due to give evidence today.

The trial continues.

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