Jackie O reveals Kyle Sandilands orchestrated Kiis rebrand and resignation from 2Day FM behind her back

Radio personality and The Masked Singer judge Jackie ‘O’ Henderson has candidly spoken about how the Kyle and Jackie O Show’s dramatic move from Southern Cross Austereo’s (SCA) 2Day FM to Australian Radio Network’s (ARN) Kiis 1065 really unfolded.

Kyle Sandilands concocted the plan (involving proposing the Mix rebrand to Kiis and resigning from 2Day FM) behind her back, promised executives the duo weren’t defecting to Mix, and left her to watch SCA rip down their posters when news dropped that they had, in fact, joined the rival network, Henderson has claimed.

“I was [still in the building after the final 2Day FM show], Kyle was smart enough to leave. Everyone was there with a big farewell party for us. I mean, they thought this was our last day in radio. So they wanted to give us a massive party and a send off,”  Henderson told Osher Gunsberg on yesterday’s episode of his podcast, Better Than Yesterday.

“Everyone from every floor at SCA had come up to watch our last show and I knew, 10 minutes later, it was going to be announced on Mix [that the duo had signed there]. And Kyle said, as he came out of the studio to hundreds of people clapping, [saying] ‘Well done guys’, ‘I’m just going to the loo, I’ll be back in two seconds’.

“Well, he just exited and was out of there. Me, feeling bad, felt like I should stand around and thank people. And then suddenly I look around and people all have headphones on. Word’s spread that, oh my god everyone’s listening to Mix. Simon Greally, our EP at the time, said ‘Jack, you need to get out of here’. And as I was walking out of the building, they were ripping down our posters.”

Kyle and Jackie O defected from 2Day FM to Kiis FM in 2013

Henderson explained that the plan was first hatched after SCA made her and Sandilands feel like they were no longer wanted. Their contracts ended in December, and “the fact that no one had come to us with a contract, by I think October, spoke volumes to us”.

“They were still wanting to sign us, but when you hear things from people that suggest we’re on our last legs, you then start to think ‘Okay, well what do we do from here?’ And Kyle called me one night and said ‘I’ve got an idea. What about we go to Mix and we rebrand it as Kiis?’” she said. Henderson thought Sandilands was joking, just “in one of his moods”.

“And I don’t know what the timeframe was between that call and the next call I got, let’s say it was a month later, and Kyle said ‘I’ve just gone in and I’ve told them [SCA] I’m resigning’.

“He goes ‘We’re going to Mix babe’. And I was furious. I broke down in tears. I said, ‘I’ve just signed a mortgage and I have not spoken to one person at Mix. I don’t know what’s going on. Do they even want us or is this a figment of your imagination? Do they want to rebrand to Kiis?’

“That’s a big deal, a station rebrand, as you know, a very expensive thing. So I was petrified and it gave me no choice, I had to resign as well, because I’m not going to do a show without Kyle.”

The following week, Henderson and Sandilands met ARN’s CEO Ciaran Davis and national content director Duncan Campbell in a boardroom in Sydney’s The Stamford hotel. It was the first time Henderson had met with anyone at the rival station.

“And yeah, they [Davis and Campbell] gave us our word that this was going to be the contract, this was how much was going to be offered, and we shook on it. And I was shitting myself. I really was,” she said.

“Thank God for Kyle, because he makes these big moves. He would be great in Survivor, he really would. He makes big moves and he does it for self-preservation and it’s worked every time.”

Henderson explained it was difficult fronting up to SCA knowing her and Sandilands had this secret, especially once the rumours started.

“A couple of execs in there were questioning ‘Why, why would you just resign and quit and leave radio when you two love radio so much?’ And I remember the content director came in one day after the show, and she said ‘Okay, I’m only going to ask you this once, and once only. Are you going to Mix?’, because she’d heard whispers.

“And she goes ‘I want you to swear -’, I can’t remember whose life she asked him to swear on. And he said ‘I swear on-’ whatever life, I can’t remember, ‘I swear on so and so’s life that we will not ever be on air at Mix.’

“So he [Kyle] knew it was going to be changed to Kiis and he said ‘I would never want to work for Mix so I can assure you…’ So this particular content director went around and told everyone ‘I know for sure they’re not going anywhere, he swore on so and so’s life’, so they were all very pleased that was the case. All the while Kyle knew he’d got them.”

Henderson: “It gave me no choice, I had to resign as well, because I’m not going to do a show without Kyle”

But, despite the way her time at SCA ended, Henderson said she owes a lot to the company.

“Our best negotiations have been the ones where the CEOs have gone ‘Look, we want you, and this is a fair offer’, and it has been a fair offer, and we’re like ‘Cool, let’s shake on that, that’s great’. Don’t make us feel like you don’t want us anymore, because it’s unnecessary. I don’t respond to that very well,” she said.

“So, yeah, there was a part of me that felt really bad about what had happened, and I’ll always be thankful to SCA for the career they have given me, but at the same time, anyone in our position would have done the same thing.”

Henderson’s career as one of the country’s most successful radio personalities has survived the controversies often conjured up when someone utters the words “Kyle and Jackie O”.

“I remember the first one, which was the lie detector [a segment 10 years ago which featured a 14-year-old girl admitting she had been raped], that was horrific. And Kyle and I weren’t really that talked about up until that point. That was a real turning point in our careers … having news reporters out the front of your house everyday just wanting blood. And I remember just hiding in my house for days on end,” she said.

“And then we had another incident. I don’t think it was too long after, and that was when you [Gunsberg] came to fill in [for Sandilands, who was suspended] and that’s when he said something about Magda Szubanski.”

Two months after the lie detector controversy, in 2009, Sandilands joked about Szubanski losing weight at a concentration camp. The TV star’s family is of Polish origin, where many Nazi concentrations camps, including Auschwitz, were located.

“I just felt like ‘Oh my god, I can’t get a break here, this is too much’ and I was really thinking about quitting because I just didn’t think it was worth it,” Henderson admitted.

“I definitely had conversations with Lee [Henderson, her ex-husband, with whom she split last year]. ‘Can I quit? Can we do this without this job, because I don’t want to live this life, this isn’t something I signed up for’. I signed up to entertain, light entertainment. Yes, we cross the line sometimes, a little bit, but we don’t cross it to the point where we’re in the news every night and Kyle’s getting fired off Idol.”

She’s glad she stuck it out. There have been more controversies since. There’ll be more to come.

But as for whether she’s dared to step foot in the SCA offices again?

“Never … They’d be throwing food and shit and mud at me,” she laughed.

“I still don’t think I’m welcome back.”


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