In a
change that many in the Sydney legal scene have missed, the
Nine Network defamation account is now being shared between Gilbert & Tobin
and another Sydney law firm, Deacons. It’s a
change that started midway through last year, as Nine searched for ways to cut
costs under Sam Chisholm.

Nine has used Gilbert & Tobin, especially partner Mark O’Brien, for
all its
outside defamation work for the past 15 or 16 years – ranging from
out-of-hours advice, case work, briefing counsel and court appearances.
the drive to cut costs saw Nine try to introduce competition into the
process and Deacons were approached to see if they would handle some of
Nine’s pre-trial and out-of-hours advice. They were happy to oblige.

Nine’s senior legal counsel, Andrew Stewart, had the task of going to
Gilbert & Tobin to explain the new situation to Mark O’Brien. The
talk at Nine and at the law firm is that the news wasn’t taken
joyfully. At the same time, Stewart moved to Deacons, independent of the move to
retain the firm, so that Nine has someone there familiar with its
work. Stewart still goes to Nine regularly for pre-trial work but
Deacons is doing the pre-broadcast work, while Gilbert & Tobin is doing
the court work and running the litigation.

in house legal team is starting the pre-broadcast vetting and other work, but
are missing the experience of Stewart. Nine’s
new executive director and No. 2 to CEO Eddie McGuire, Jeff Brown – a lawyer –
will now presumably oversee the Nine legal

Peter Fray

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