There was a brief flurry of excitement
in Sydney’s Federal Court this morning when Seven’s corporate affairs
director, Simon Francis, was sprung by the judge handing out copies of
Kerry Stokes’s sworn statements to the media. Francis looked suitably
embarrassed and sat down, but he’d done his deed and got Stokes’s four
sworn statements into the public arena. The first, dated 6 November
2003, recounts a meeting between Kerry Stokes and James Packer:

At some point during the weekend of 9 and 10 December 2000
I had a meeting at my home in Sydney with James Packer. Mr Packer had
asked to see me. During the meeting we had a conversation in words to
the following effect.

Mr Packer: “I’ve come to tell you that
we’re going to take the AFL rights off you. We’re all going to get
together to take those rights. We don’t really want to do it, but News
are making us.”

I said: “Why would you want to spend all that extra money?”

Mr Packer said: “Well, that’s what we’re going to do. And I hear you’re trying to do something with the NRL rights.”

I said: “Yes. You haven’t left us with any choice.”

Mr
Packer said: “I can’t believe News would have left the back door open.
We’ve gone and closed all the gates and got everything set and they go
and leave a huge back door open. But it doesn’t matter what you spend.
I would not be against Rupert when it comes to getting the NRL rights.”

I
said: “I understand very clearly what it means to go up against both of
you. But I am not going to be run out of my own country and Seven will
remain a competitor.”

On 14 December 2000 I learned that C7 had not been successful in its bid for the NRL rights.

Peter Fray

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