Macquarie Media CEO Adam Lang sues The Daily Telegraph for defamation

Macquarie Media’s CEO, Adam Lang, has commenced defamation proceedings against The Daily Telegraph and its editor-at-large Matthew Benns, Mumbrella can reveal.

Lang claims the article, written by Benns about the departure of 2GB talkback host Chris Smith, implied he is an “incompetent” and “sadistic executive”. The piece said Lang is “the smiling assassin”, responsible for a series of “management bungles” that cost Macquarie Media millions of dollars.

Macquarie Media boss Adam Lang is alleging The Daily Telegraph and its journalist defamed him

The “management bungles” in question involve not just Smith’s exit, but Lang’s “failed Talking Lifestyle station which closed after 18 months at a loss believed to be in the region of $6m”, according to the article. Benns also said that Macquarie Sports Radio is “haemorrhaging money” with 30 full-time staff and less than 1% audience share, but throughout the difficulties, Lang has had a “cheery demeanour as he delivers bad news”, leading to the “smiling assassin” moniker.

In court documents viewed by Mumbrella, Lang submits that the article carries four defamatory implications: he is incompetent in his management of 2GB, his management bungles have cost Macquarie Media millions, he is a sadistic executive who takes pleasure from delivering bad news to staff, and he has created a toxic atmosphere in the workplace at 2GB.

Benns also claimed that Lang’s relationships with 2GB’s former host Smith and current broadcaster Alan Jones have degraded, quoting insiders who said Jones has “lost all respect” for Lang and their relationship is “toxic”. The article said Lang was “instrumental” in trying to stop 2GB from re-signing Jones, who since renewing his contract in July has caused more than 100 advertisers to pull support from the station following his inflammatory comments about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The article ran partly on the front cover of The Daily Telegraph (left), with the full story appearing on page 10 (right) (Click to enlarge)

An excerpt of the article appeared on the front cover of The Daily Telegraph’s 4 July edition, with the full piece running on page 10 and online. The court documents state that hundreds of thousands of readers view The Daily Telegraph’s website each day.

In the statement of claim, filed on 17 September against The Telegraph’s publisher, Nationwide News, a subsidiary of News Corp, Lang sets out how he has “been brought into hatred, ridicule and contempt”, “been gravely injured in his character and reputation”, and “suffered hurt and embarrassment”. In supporting these claims, Lang points to the prominence of the article both in print and online, and the failure of the newspaper and Benns to “verify the accuracy of the allegations” and give Lang a reasonable opportunity to respond before publication.

Additionally, Lang notes three other articles published in The Daily Telegraph which were allegedly “unfair, false and/or derogatory”.

On 12 May, columnist Annette Sharp said Jones was “no longer on speaking terms” with Lang. A 3 July article by Benns claimed “2GB’s management team has handled Smith’s removal so badly that they could be the next for the axe”. And in an 8 August piece, Benns said 2GB’s drop in revenue could be attributed to a “campaign to axe Alan Jones that drove away advertisers”.

Before commencing proceedings in the Federal Court, Lang’s lawyers, Maddocks, wrote to the newspaper, requesting an apology and the removal of the allegedly defamatory article. The Daily Telegraph responded that it “stands by” the article, which is still live on its website.

In May, The Daily Telegraph was ordered to pay Geoffrey Rush a record $2.87m in defamation damages, Australia’s highest defamation payout to a single person. The newspaper is appealing the decision, with a hearing set down for 4 November.

Lang’s case will be in court for a case management hearing on 22 October.

Mumbrella has contacted The Daily Telegraph for comment.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.