The irony must have been sweet. There was Jeff Browne – Eddie McGuire’s mate, manager and number two at the Nine Network – searching the lot yesterday for Mark Llewellyn for an important meeting to discuss the 2007 financial year budgets. But Browne couldn’t find him anywhere.

Llewellyn – Nine’s supplanted Director of News and Current Affairs, now the Executive Producer of Production – was wanted for a meeting with Browne, Linnell and Nine’s Chief Operating Officer, Ian Audsley. Llewellyn’s demotion a fortnight ago was the centrepiece of Nine’s purge of 100 jobs, and from all reports he wasn’t a happy camper.

Browne walked into the 60 Minutes cottage on the Nine lot at Willoughby and asked Executive Producer John Westacott if he had seen Llewellyn. No, said Westie, but he said he’d call him.

Meanwhile, in another Sydney location, Llewellyn’s mobile rang. When he noticed it was Westacott calling, he decided to ignore it. But when the man sitting next to him asked who was on the phone, Llewellyn told him and that person picked up the phone and answered it.

That person was Peter Meakin – Westie’s old boss at Nine, who is now tormenting his old network at its rival, Seven. Meakin proceeded to chat to Westacott, with Browne apparently listening, and told the Nine duo that he’d just hired Llewellyn to run “new news programs” (like True Stories) for Seven.

When the conversation ended Meakin escorted Llewellyn through the Seven newsroom at Martin Place, as word of the defection spread like wildfire through the Sydney media.

Now, Nine is threatening legal action, claiming Llewellyn has broken his contract – after they demoted him and halved his salary, despite him having a three-year contract as News and Current Affairs Director, signed by Sam Chisholm.

Another day in the life of Australian network TV.

Peter Fray

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