Seven responds to ‘false suggestions’ relating to Tennis Australia court case

Seven West Media has responded to what it claims are “false suggestions… made by others” in relation to the 2013 broadcasting rights deal made between Seven and Tennis Australia.

A spokesperson for the network has defended Seven West Media, its executives and directors after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) alleged Harold Mitchell, a former director of Tennis Australia, passed on confidential information to Seven Network about the views and negotiating position of Tennis Australia.

ASIC has issued civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against former Tennis Australia Limited directors, Harold Charles Mitchell, of Melbourne, and Stephen James Healy

In documents filed to the Federal Circuit Court, ASIC alleged Mitchell also “downplayed to the Tennis Australia board the interests of parties other than the Seven Network in acquiring the rights”.

A spokesperson from Seven said in a statement: “Insofar as false suggestions have been made by others it is important to clarify that Seven co-operated in the ASIC investigation as required of it and no allegations have been made by ASIC against Seven executives or directors.

“Our contract with Tennis Australia provided for an exclusive negotiating window which we pursued in good faith. In accordance with expectations Tennis Australia had to similarly engage in good faith negotiations during that period, not only because of the contractual obligation but also because of the longstanding relationship.

“There was a material step up in the rights fee agreed and we reached agreement within that exclusive period. We didn’t receive any confidential information and nor was it put to us by ASIC that we had.”

In its filing, ASIC also alleged that “Mitchell emailed Lewis Martin [managing director of Seven Network Melbourne] and Bruce McWilliam [Seven’s commercial director] regarding the Seven Network offer”.

Mitchell’s email allegedly stated: “Let’s wrap this up next week. Leave it with me.” McWilliam replied: “Thanks Harold – agree and thanks.”

In a statement released this morning, Seven West Media denied these claims.

“The emails ASIC has made public were sent six months prior to when the contract for the 2015-19 rights season was actually agreed and signed at the end of May 2013.

“Seven’s offers increased all the time during the negotiations and needed to be constantly referred to the SWM board. In addition, SWM cooperated with Tennis Australia’s desire to take the production back in house which had previously been a source of revenue for Seven and represented a further value shift to Tennis Australia to use its new dedicated facility at Melbourne Park.

“Ultimately the negotiations for the final deal were conducted with the full executive team in intensive sessions over several days, with lawyers in attendance for both sides, and the deal was approved by the full Tennis Australia board.”


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