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Vizard's "rise" occupies only about a quarter of the book; the "fall" is spent trudging diligently through the court transcripts. There is no postscript.
Table of contents

On the boards of countless companies, including Telstra, Vizard seemed to be involved in every aspect of public and corporate life. And through the charitable Vizard Foundation, he was seen to foster art and other good causes.

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But Hilliard knew lots of secrets about his old boss, and when faced with criminal charges he hit back hard, accusing the businessman of illegal share deals and more. He portrayed Vizard as a master of deception whose public image was a charade; Hilliard depicted himself as merely the businessman's dupe.

Vizard, however, saw it very differently. In this compelling story of Vizard's fall from grace, Leonie Wood seeks to uncover the man behind the public persona, and to answer the question on the lips of many: why did he do it?

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Was it greed, audacity or sheer stupidity? No, the mystery of the Vizard story is how on earth did he get off so lightly?


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Here is a man - a sharp corporate lawyer before he made his name in TV comedy - who set up a convoluted and clandestine corporate structure at the height of the dotcom madness to profit from buying into high-tech companies that Telstra was targeting. Only the "tech wreck" of prevented him from making millions.

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Yet Vizard was never charged with the criminal offence of insider trading, the only sanction wealthy corporate evil-doers fear because it carries a jail sentence. And if - a big "if" - the refusal of his accountant, Greg Lay, to testify left prosecutors wobbly over the chance of a conviction, there is an arsenal of other charges under the Corporations Law such as breaching director's duties that could, and should, have been laid.

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Including, as Wood documents, lying to a court. That is known in the trade as perjury and it carries a stiff term in the pokey. And yet, after a perfunctory investigation, Vizard was never charged with that crime either. Did the plod not understand that he was impossibly wedged: either he perjured himself in Hilliard's committal hearing, or he committed contempt by lying to Finkelstein?

The rise and fall of Steve Vizard

Here is a man who funnels his wealth through a maze of trusts and private companies, and who has been accused by Hilliard of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in backdoor bundles of bank-notes and of having expressed interest in tax havens. And yet, so far as is known, he has not been subject to any examination by the taxman.

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Wood does give us a few illuminating cameos from outside the courts. There is a memorable moment, for instance, at Hilliard's farewell dinner, when one of Vizard's lieutenants leans across the table and mock-whispers: "Roy should be killed. He knows too much. But she does not address in sufficient depth the most important issues: why did our law enforcement agencies, and in particular the much-criticised Australian Securities and Investments Commission, fail to take tough action?

Is the law flawed?