Gina Rinehart has upped the stakes in her battle for a seat at the Fairfax boardroom table, saying claims that she wanted editorial control over the 171-year-old media company were a smokescreen and she was interested only in saving a "once proud" business.
She also told Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett that if he did not reverse the company's five-year fall in paid circulation and revenue within five months he should resign at the next annual general meeting.
In a provocative letter to Mr Corbett, she accused him of breaking the same company charter of independence that he publicly and unsuccessfully asked her to sign as a condition of her appointment.
Mr Corbett and the Fairfax board have refused to give Mrs Rinehart two or more board seats, citing her refusal to adhere to the charter, despite the mining magnate increasing her stake in the ailing company in recent weeks to 18.7 per cent to make her the company's biggest shareholder.
In her letter, Mrs Rinehart criticised the management and performance of the company and suggested its claim she refused the charter of independence was a distraction.
She said she did not recall being sent the document and that discussions about it had been brief.
Mrs Rinehart called on Mr Corbett to agree to a "performance milestone" of returning the share price to 87¢ before its annual general meeting in five months and reversing "the five-year decline in paid circulation and revenue".
Mrs Rinehart's views are normally channelled through her long-time lawyer Paul McCann, Hancock Prospecting officials or former adviser Ian Smith. But this salvo was signed by the mining magnate under her letterhead and released publicly.
A rare move, it was seen as a sign she was prepared to play tough in the increasingly bitter war.
Mr Corbett questioned Mrs Rinehart's motives for the letter and accused her of a personal crusade that would damage the company."Contrary to Mrs Rinehart's repeated assertions that this isn't about editorial control, it is," he said. "It is also about her obtaining control of the company and not paying a premium."
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