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The man at the centre of "threats" that led to the resignation of Pacific National boss Stephen O'Donnell is being touted as the man to replace him.
Mark Rowsthorn, one of Toll Holdings' two directors on the joint venture PN board, would be a good replacement for Mr O'Donnell, who stands down in two months, Toll managing director Paul Little said yesterday.
Mr Little added that Allan Davies, a Patrick Corporation representative on the PN board, could also do the job, possibly jointly with Mr Rowsthorn.
But Mr Davies, who is also a director at Excell Coal, said yesterday he had made it clear to people on the PN board that he didn't have the time to take on the role as chief executive.
Patrick Corp fears that is a tacit indication from Mr Little that Mr Rowsthorn will be given the job unchallenged.
"I was quite shocked when I heard Paul Little float the idea," Mr Davies said. "I made it clear to Mark Rowsthorn that it was not only impractical for me to get involved as chief executive, but that it also would not serve the interests of PN or its shareholders."
Pacific National, the nation's biggest rail freight operator, is jointly owned by Toll Holdings and the Chris Corrigan-run Patrick Corporation.
Mr Corrigan and Mr Little are the remaining two members on the four-seat board of PN.
Appointing Mr Rowsthorn to the top job would create tension among PN's employees, a Patrick spokesman said yesterday.
Mr Rowsthorn has refused to step down from the board after he allegedly told Mr O'Donnell he was "f...ed up" and warned him to seek legal advice after accusing him of being a Patrick stooge. Mr O'Donnell cited the comments as part of the intimidation forcing him to step aside.
Toll spokesman Martin Debelle said yesterday that if Mr Davies were not available, it would stop Mr Rowsthorn from taking the top job because only a joint proposal was acceptable.
"Failing Mark and Allan doing it, then Patrick and Toll could each nominate someone to do it jointly," he said.
"Failing that, (PN general manager intermodal) Phil Bainbridge or (PN general manager coal) Peter Winder could do it.
"There is also an external person who cannot be named, or an executive search started."
What makes the matter complex is that Toll has put in a $4.9billion hostile takeover bid for Patrick.
Mr Corrigan said on Channel Nine's Business Sunday program that Toll's bid had degenerated.
"It's bogged down and Toll are looking increasingly desperate to acquire Patrick," he said.
Mr Debelle responded by saying Mr Corrigan could not clarify key funding forecasts in Patrick's target statement: "Mr Corrigan was unable to explain how Patrick planned to fund forecast capital improvements and pay shareholder distributions in the next two years, due to an apparent shortfall of cash of around $400 million."
At the PN board today, Mr Corrigan and Mr Little will come face-to-face for the first time on this issue.
Mr Little told the ABC's Inside Business program yesterday that Patrick was trying to wangle an increased price for the Toll bid.
But even if Mr Little were to raise the offer, the future of the mooted deal lies in the hands of competition regulator Graeme Samuel. The Australian Competition and Consumer Council gives its draft recommendation on the deal on November 7.
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