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Amber Harrison launches GoFundMe campaign to pay Seven’s legal bills

The long-running battle between media giant Seven West Media and former executive assistant Amber Harrison, who engaged in an affair with CEO Tim Worner, rolls on, with Harrison now launching a ‘Guilt-Free TV campaign’ on GoFundMe in a bid to pay her hefty legal bills.

Harrison: Seeking help from the public

“Channel Seven makes great TV shows which are loved by millions of Australians,” the campaign says. “Sadly, some recent legal issues mean the network may end up bankrupting former employee and single foster-mum Amber Harrison. Legal restrictions prevent Amber from telling you what happened. Google is under no such restrictions.”

The campaign, which appears to be created by Harrison, notes Seven has millions of viewers who could easily collectively fund the bills after Harrison lost her battle against Seven West Media and was ordered to pay the network’s costs.

Following the judgement, Harrison told Ten Eyewitness News’ Melinda Nucifora that the money would not be forthcoming – “They knew it would bankrupt me and the Supreme Court of New South Wales has helped them to do it… I’m not going to pay it [the legal bills] – I can’t pay it” – but now she appears to be relying on the Australian public to meet her obligations.

“Seven has literally millions of viewers,” the campaign says. “If each viewer gave just $1 each, Amber could easily pay off Seven, and you could enjoyt Seven’s shows, knowing your favourite network didn’t bankrupt anyone.

“For just $1, enjoy Guilt-Free TV.”

The campaign notes any additional funds would go towards “selected charities that support fairness and access to justice in the legal system and to support independent journalism”.

So far, at 9:55am on Wednesday 16 August, $1,335 of the $200,000 goal has been raised.

The campaign comes less than a week after blogger Shane Dowling was sent to jail for four months for contempt of court. Dowling had used his blog – which Mumbrella won’t link to or name for legal reasons – to name two high-profile Seven West Media personalities who had allegedly also engaged in affairs with Worner.

Justice Ian Harrison in the NSW Supreme Court found Dowling gulity of contempt after he breached suppression orders by Seven West Media and ignored court rulings by publishing the names of the women.

How it unfolded 

In mid December, Harrison contacted journalists and publishers across the country, including Mumbrella, detailing her affair with Worner which took place when she was executive assistant to then-boss of Seven West Media’s Pacific Magazines Nick Chan in 2012.

Harrison alleged the affair began to unravel when Pacific Magazine’s management operations were transferred to Seven West Media’s Pyrmont headquarters at the end of 2013 and the two had to deal with each other on a regular basis in the workplace.

This, she said, led her to have an emotional breakdown before the network launched an investigation into her credit card use in July 2014.

When Harrison left Seven acrimoniously in late 2014, she signed two deeds which entitled her to a six-figure payout, provided she did not speak out against the company or reveal details of the affair.

Harrison said the legal discussions about the financial agreement had broken down, prompting her to take the story public.

After Harrison’s allegations became national news, the board of the media company ordered an inquiry into the CEO and the sex scandal.

At the time, the board noted it continued to support its embattled CEO, but said the “independent” inquiry had been commissioned “to allay any concerns that our shareholders may have”.

Before the year was over, two TV personalities launched urgent court action to keep their names out of the public domain after a website alleged they too had engaged in affairs with Worner.

In February, the Seven West Media board cleared Worner of misconduct following the investigation by Richard Harris, a litigation and investigations partner at Allens Linklaters.

The inquiry looked into a bonus payment made to Harrison, the investigation into her corporate credit card expenses and those of Worner, allegations of drug use, the duo’s “personal yet inappropriate” relationship and allegations of other inappropriate relationships between Worner and staff.

The board said it was satisfied Mr Worner did not have any involvement in the way the company dealt with Harrison after the relationship between them became known by the company, and noted many of the other allegations could not be substantiated.

A statement from the company said Worner has been “disciplined by the chairman [Kerry Stokes] and the board and provided an undertaking this behaviour will not be repeated, as well as an apology.”

Stokes: Dealt with Worner

The board concluded “there [were] no grounds to take any further disciplinary action against Mr Worner beyond the action which was taken in 2014 when the company become aware of the inappropriate relationship”.

Harrison was quick to slam the findings, dubbing it a “whitewash” and saying it was a “green light” for male executives to “prey on female staff”.

After a series of Tweets by Harrison which included the release of emails and internal documents, Seven obtained an interim, ex parte injunction against her in the Supreme Court of NSW. The network was looking to stem the tide of documents, letters and receipts she had been releasing on social media and said she had no right to “hold, access or release” them.

In the days following the urgent court action, Seven released its financial results, which included a 27.7% drop in earnings before interest and tax on revenues of $905.1m.

The results briefing was widely anticipated as Worner’s return to the public eye, with the CEO noting despite the ongoing distractions the results – which included a 40.8% share in TV advertising revenue – were strong.

During the release of the results on 15 February, Worner said “much had been written about and discussed” since news of the affair broke, but he did not want to “give any more oxygen” to things that did or did not happen”.

A week later the network was back in court as Fairfax and News Corp requested the injunction be dropped, so they could hear Harrison’s side of the story.

Fairfax and Nationwide News – the subdivision of News Corp which publishes The Daily Telegraph – said the media companies were being thwarted in their attempts to cover the story because they could not approach Harrison for comment.

Seven however was successful in having its injunction extended in a court battle which revealed Harrison had vowed a “reign of terror” against her former lover.

During the proceedings, the network alleged Harrison had used the media to tell her story, deliberately ignoring the agreement they had in place which would have seen her paid more than $420,000. Harrison’s legal team countered that she had been left defenceless against the might of the media giant and attacks by former Victorian premier and Seven West Media board member Jeff Kennett.

The protracted legal battle then saw Stokes and Kennett condemned by Supreme Court judge Justice Robert McDougall for their interactions with Harrison – who herself had been “reckless or indifferent” to the collateral damage she was causing to others.

Kennett: Engaged in a war of words with Harrison on Twitter

“Mr Stokes and Mr Kennett likewise descended into a welter of accusation and counter accusation,” he said.

“I do not think the war Mr Kennett waged was well advised.”

By the time April rolled around, the two parties were ordered into mediation by the Federal Court over Fair Work claims lodged by Harrison against the network.

Then, once the end of the NSW-based legal action neared, Harrison announced she was bowing out.

After switching legal teams a number of times, Harrison conceded she had made a “realistic assessment of the court case” and had asked her legal team not to represent her anymore.

On July 17, Harrison officially lost to the network and was ordered to pay its legal costs.

Handing down his reasons Justice John Sackar said the case had been “scandalous” but noted he could not speak to the veracity of some of the claims that had been made during the hearings.

“These proceedings have, from the outset, been engulfed in a vitriolic atmosphere,” Sackar said.

“The allegations from both sides, whether entirely true or not, have often been personal, scandalous, and sadly ripe for media and public consumption.”

Sackar said Harrison had pursued her case against Seven with a disregard for the implications.

“To persist in running a case without any admissible evidence to rely upon reflects a real disregard for any adverse cost consequences that naturally follow from such conduct.”

Seven welcomed the judgement and said it was looking forward to moving on, but Harrison spoke to media later that afternoon noting she was unable to pay the hefty bill.

In recent weeks, blogger Shane Dowling has been jailed for contempt of court after he failed to remove the names of two high-profile Seven personalities who Harrison had earlier alleged engaged in affairs with Worner. The sentence is for four months after Justice Ian Harrison said Dowling “repeatedly published the names of the first and second plaintiffs on his website, his Facebook account and his Twitter account both by making fresh posts and by failing to remove existing posts, and has done so knowing it was in contravention of Campbell J’s orders to do so”.

Timeline of Amber Harrison’s legal battle with Seven:

19 December: Seven boss Tim Worner’s affair with staffer exposed as legal battle rages over payments

19 December: Seven West Media says Tim Worner will stay as boss as shares fall $100m over scandal

22 December: Seven West Media board orders inquiry into CEO Tim Worner’s sex scandal

23 December: TV stars launch court bid to keep names out of Tim Worner scandal

3 February: Seven West Media board clears CEO Tim Worner of misconduct following probe

3 February: Amber Harrison fires back, claiming Seven’s probe into CEO’s conduct gives green light for men to ‘prey on female staff’

10 February: Amber Harrison tweets emails between Worner and Seven board members relating to AFP raids

13 February: Seven takes out injunction against Amber Harrison to stop release of confidential documents

15 February: Seven earnings down as Worner delivers first results since Harrison scandal revealed

15 February: Worner returns to the public eye bullish on Seven but apologetic as Stokes steps in to take media heat

21 February: Seven and Harrison head back to court as Fairfax and News ask for injunction to be dropped

21 February: Amber Harrison vowed ‘reign of terror’ over Tim Worner, but Seven wins bid to have injunction extended

22 February: Judge criticises Stokes and Kennett over Amber Harrison media attacks

7 April: Tim Worner’s decision to quit Swans board increases pressure on Seven

28 April: Seven and Amber Harrison ordered into mediation by Federal Court

7 July: Amber Harrison concedes defeat in legal fight with Seven

17 July: Amber Harrison loses battle against Seven West Media as court orders her to pay costs

17 July: ‘I’m not going to pay it’: Amber Harrison warns she is unable to foot Seven’s legal bill

10 August: Amber Harrison blogger, Shane Dowling, jailed over contempt of court

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