Sam or Greg?

In recent weeks The Wiggles announced that the yellow Wiggle was changing. Wiggles management said that the original yellow Wiggle, Greg would be rejoining (unlike the way that Pippa from Home and Away changed where we just had to accept a new person playing the role without a press conference – I’m still getting over one).

If media reports are true, Greg’s return has less to do with wanting to don the skivvy again and more to do with a bad investment. When Greg left the group 6 years ago he received a payout of around $20 million. This in turn was allegedly invested into a property development that went belly up. If this is the case it would seem that Greg broke one of the fundamental rules of investing – don’t put all your eggs in the one basket. This decision led, in part or full, to Sam leaving the group after having been recognised as bringing a new energy to an aging outfit.

There have been the inevitable suggestions from the public regarding whacking Sam in a green top and adding him as a fifth Wiggle, but they’ve been there before.  The original Wiggles album was recorded by five cast members, albeit without their famous colours (and if you have a copy on CD, signed by all five, I reckon it’d be worth a bit.) The fifth Wiggle, Phillip Wilcher, wrote most of the first album, which was re-released years later with all of Wilcher’s work removed.

For a group described as Australia’s richest entertainers, there would seem to be little generosity extended to Sam. He allegedly earned a salary of $200,000 a year for his time as lead singer and was offered just $60,000 when he left. It might seem like a lot of money to you and I, but it’s a tiny fraction of the $27 million they earned last year. In recent days, Wiggles management have released accounting figures to show that despite earning many millions, the outfit made a $2.5 million loss last year and that the five owners are propping the company up with a $7.2 million loan via another Wiggles company. Talk about complicated accounting.

It seems that money, and in this instance big money, changes things. I met The Wiggles 15 odd years ago and was thoroughly impressed with them – they were genuinely nice guys who adored their fans. I don’t know if and to what extent they may have changed since then.

Whether you are on team Sam or team Greg, one thing can’t be denied – Sam’s departure is a blow to the chances of The Wiggles implementing a succession plan to hand over the performance to four new Aussie faces. High Five managed to keep their brand alive after the original cast left but there is concern that The Wiggles won’t pull off the same stunt when the time comes. If they can’t then it’s the kids who will suffer (and their parents who will have to rely on aging DVDs and/or a US based group to see them through every morning).

All this may or may not be accurate. The truth, as they say, might lie somewhere in the middle. But I can’t help thinking that the fresh young face of Sam would still be there if it were not for that investment gone wrong.

Think about that next time someone says you should put all your money into a single asset.

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