There was a surprise guest at the Nine Network weekly drinks session in
the Brian Henderson Lounge at Willoughby last Friday evening: Kerry
Packer made a very rare appearance to mingle with management and
ordinary staff for more than an hour. He wasn’t there to frighten
people, it was more of a morale boosting visit. Packer fronted to
acknowledge reporter Peter Harvey’s 30 years with the network.
Coming at the end of a week when the network’s chief operating officer,
Mick Morris, resigned (to look after his ill parents) after a reported
argument with Packer, the visit was symbolic, a tangible sign of
support and gives the lie to stories coming out of other parts of the
PBL bunkers at Park Street in Sydney’s CBD that Gyngell was being lined
up for total blame for the poor ratings and tightened financial straits
Those rumours made it into the Sydney Sun Herald’s
gossip pages with suggestions that Gyngell may be given a mentor to
help him. A curious story, given that Packer is effectively his
godson’s mentor. Certainly the Packer appearance was the talking point
of the Nine staff ball at Sydney’s Luna Park on Saturday night.
Staff got free rides for an hour before a sit down meal and dancing to
live bands. Around 470 people turned up. Staff paid $50 a head, with
$65 a head for partners, rising to a maximum of $120 for four friends
or more. Money for the ball had been raised by the social club at
drinks sessions, raffles and other events for the past year. A company
co-payment was also made.
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That in itself was an interesting and welcome move given the crackdown on discretionary spending that’s seen programs like 60 Minutes , The news, A Current Affair and Sunday having to restrict travel budgets. But not all the time. Jana Wendt and a producer left Sunday
for Rome and the conclave of cardinals that will elect the new pope.
It’s going to be a tough trip to justify: the 117 cardinals have been
told not to talk to the media during their voting and discussions.