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Crown Resorts board member embroiled in Tennis rights scandal

Wed, Nov 21, 2:18pm by Staff Writer

A former Tennis Australia director and current Crown Resorts board member is being accused of improperly using his position in the sport’s peak national body to advantage Kerry Stoke’s Seven Network in its bid to retain the rights to broadcast the sport.

Harold Mitchell was vice president of Tennis Australia in 2012 and 2013 and is accused alongside lawyer and former Tennis Australia president Steve Healy.

The pair is alleged to have passed on confidential information to Mr Stoke’s about rival bids from the Ten Network and sports management group IMG to broadcast tennis in Australia.

Both Mr Mitchell and Mr Healy allegedly kept information about the interest other networks and IMG had in the tennis rights from the rest of the board, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission told the Federal Court.

Controversy surrounds Seven’s final tennis rights deal

Tennis Australia decided to grant Seven a five-year rights deal for A$35 million a year to broadcast tennis in Australia in June 2013.

This is despite receiving a higher bid from IMG and indicates that Seven’s rivals Nine and Ten could pay as much as A$50 million per year for the rights.

Mr Healy is the chief executive officer for Australia at law firm Dentons and said he would “vigorously defend the claim.”

76-year-old Mr Mitchell also sits on the board of Crown Resorts, with a spokeswoman for Crown declining to comment, “because it’s not a Crown Resorts matter.”

The Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation conducted its five-yearly review of Crown’s Melbourne casino license and had no qualms with Mr Mitchell’s activity.

It is said to be aware of ASIC’s lawsuit and stated that, “as with any information relating to an association of the Melbourne casino, the VCGLR will consider this and monitor the matter as it progresses.”

Seven is alleged to have offered a meagre A$125 million for five years of tennis rights, with Mr Mitchell alleged to have emailed Mr Stoke’s right-hand man, Bruce McWilliam and Seven’s Melbourne managing director Lewis Martin saying, “Let’s wrap this up next week. Leave it with me.”

The chief executive of Tennis Australia at the time Steve Wood refused to accept Seven’s offer because he thought it was too low, as reported by The Australian.

ASIC accuses Mr Mitchell of persuading Mr Wood not to show the board IMG’s offer at a December 2012 meeting.

Seven swaps bats for racquets

The operator of the Seven Network, Seven West Media and pay-TV provider Foxtel entered into an agreement to broadcasting cricket in Australia in a 35-year shake up of televising the nation’s game.

The Seven Network will broadcast all men’s Test matches and women’s internationals, as well as 43 Big Bash League T20 matches and 23 Women’s Big Bash League T20 matches.

Fox Sports through its dedicated Fox Cricket channel would offer coverage of Men’s Tests, Women’s Internationals, all 59 Big Bash League T20 matches including 16 exclusively, as well as exclusive coverage of Men’s One Day Internationals and T20 Internationals.

Channel Nine will air the 2019 Cricket World Cup and 2020 World T20 event, with Cricket Australia continuing to live stream 36 Women’s Big Bash League T20 matches and the Sheffield Shield.

The Nine Network will embark on its first summer of tennis broadcasting after acquiring the tennis rights in a deal in May this year.

It will spend more than A$48 million on its annual coverage, securing the rights until 2024.

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