Former director of Tennis Australia and prominent media figure Harold Mitchell is in the firing line of the corporate watchdog.
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) alleges that Harold Mitchell and former Tennis Australia president Stephen Healy mislead the Tennis Australia board to ensure the Seven Network would get the broadcast rights to the tennis.
The case relates to a decision made in 2013 by the Tennis Australia board to award the domestic television broadcast rights for the Australian Open tournament to the Seven Network for a five-year period without a competitive tender process.
ASIC alleges that Healy and Mitchell withheld information from Tennis Australia, failed to ensure the board was fully informed about the interest of other networks and failed to advise the board to put the rights up for a competitive tender.
The watchdog has commenced civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia relating to these issues.
Mitchell himself has been criticised by ASIC for his alleged behaviour in the situation.
The watchdog says that Mitchell passed confidential information about the interests of its competitors to Seven, downplayed the interest of other parties about the rights to Tennis Australia, failed to inform the Tennis Australia board about concerns Seven had over the interest of Network Ten in acquiring the rights, and encouraged the Tennis board to strike a deal with Seven without a competitive tender process.
ASIC is hoping to receive declarations that Mitchell and Healy contravened sections of the Corporations Act, as well as orders that Mitchell and Healy be disqualified from managing corporations.
Healy has been heavily involved with Tennis Australia since 2008 when he was made a director of the company. In 2010 Healy was named as president of Tennis Australia; a position he held until April 2017.
Mitchell was also a director of Tennis Australia since 2008 and retired from the board in October this year. Between 2010 and 2015 Mitchell was the vice president of the company.
In March this year Tennis Australia awarded the broadcast rights for the Australian Open for 2020 to 2024 to the Nine Network.
Business News Australia