The Australian reports that Australia’s Network Ten has hit back at Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media, saying it will not be bullied in the court dispute over programming executive, John Stephens.
After 11 years at Seven, Stephens, 67, had announced he was joining Ten earlier in March, but reneged on the decision shortly afterwards, blaming it on the influence of painkillers.
On March 18, his email to Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan was leaked. It stated: “Now that I have stopped the painkillers and other drugs and with a clear mind, feel that I can no longer accept the appointment and will not be commencing employment with Ten.”
In response to the leak, a spokesman for Ten said there had been extensive negotiations with Stephens in relation to his contract with the company.
In a statement, Ten said there had been a lot of noise and misinformation about Stephens’ negotiations with the network, which is now the subject of a battle in the Supreme Court of NSW.
“Network Ten wants to get the truth of what happened after that contract was signed by Mr Stephens,” Ten said in a statement.
“The leaking of confidential documents to the media only strengthens our resolve.
“We believe Seven Network, Bruce McWilliam, Tim Worner and others have a case to answer.
“On March 17, Justice Brereton in the Supreme Court of NSW stated there is a seriously arguable case that Seven Network has engaged in conduct that constitutes an interference with Network Ten’s agreement with Mr Stephens.
“In light of recent events, and this case, Network Ten is not prepared to be bullied. Network Ten believes Seven Network has induced breach of, and interfered with, its contract with Mr Stephens.”
It is believed Stephens was on painkillers while recovering from a hip operation.
Ten is pursuing Seven in the Supreme Court of NSW for interfering with the contract Stephens had signed with the network. Seven is arguing Stephens had a change of heart and did not have a clear mind, after initially accepting the job at Ten.
In a statement yesterday, Seven said Stephens “decided to remain at the Seven Network, despite Network Ten’s public announcement on March 7 that he would be joining Ten and was critically important to Ten’s turnaround strategy”.
“Yesterday in the Supreme Court, Justice (Paul) Brereton not only refused Ten’s application for interlocutory relief against Seven and Mr Stephens but also ordered Ten to pay Seven and Mr Stephens’s legal costs,” the statement read.
After declaring yesterday that Stephens would begin work on June 9, Ten’s statement today appears to accept Stephens is lost but the court battle has just begun.