You’d be entitled to ask if the Nine Network and PBL managements are not very clever or just have poor advisers. Why else would they take ages to make a simple agreement on a few thousand dollars costs with former news and current affairs boss, Mark Llewellyn, when they have already paid him a reputed million dollars or more?

Why would the Nine team prevaricate in court to the point where Llewellyn’s barrister had to threaten to read an affidavit in court (I don’t think it was that one)? That brought a bored courtroom 8B in the NSW Supreme Court awake Tuesday afternoon – wide awake.

There Nine’s legal team were, in the NSW Supreme Court successfully arguing before Justice Joe Campbell for a continuation of the injunction preventing any further publication of the Mark Llewellyn affidavit, and the high priced barristers were trying to slide away from paying costs for Llewellyn for the latest action.

Nine had already lost two-nil to the Seven Network (Llewellyn’s new employers) and Llewellyn in the same court on Thursday and Friday: Nine had abandoned an attempt to stop its demoted head of news and current affairs from joining Seven.

Now in the wake of Nine’s ex-parte injunction on Monday night and letter to media outlets informing them of the injunction and the prohibition on publishing anything from the Llewellyn affidavit, Llewellyn was back in court as one of the defendants.

The first defendant was the Seven Network, which wondered why it was there because Nine and its legal advisers had never asked if it intended publishing the affidavit and or its contents; Llewellyn was second defendant, Crikey was third defendant and I was defendant Number four.

After Seven asked for costs and Nine suggested it be put off to later in the case, Llewellyn’s barrister, Arthur Moses rose to ask for costs: he too was told that it would be looked at later. But the matter then arose a second time later in the second part of the hearing, just after 2.20 pm.

Justice Campbell had just rejected attempts by News Ltd and Fairfax papers to become a party to the case (They are expected to have another go today). Seven again asked for costs and received the run-around from Nine: Moses rose and told the court that he found Nine’s position hard to understand. He said he was prepared to read an affidavit from his client in court.

He said the plaintiffs (Nine) “knew an agreement was reached on Sunday” involving “PBL on behalf of Nine” to settle the matter with his client (that was the unfair dismissal). Moses said the plaintiffs knew the Sunday agreement was that he (Llewellyn) ”keep the matter confidential, which he had”. Moses wanted costs for his client for Monday and Tuesday.

After some more sidestepping by Nine, Moses stood up again and indicated he was prepared to read the affidavit. Justice Campbell said that if the agreement could not be reached then the court would reconvene at 3.45 pm. That was just after 3 pm.

The court rose, the Nine lawyers and barristers headed for a conference room and Moses and his solicitor wandered around outside.

Nine’s former counsel, now partner at Deacons, Andrew Stuart, approached with two pieces of paper: a discussion ensued involving a Nine barrister as well: they went back to the conference room. About five minutes later Stuart appeared with two pieces of paper and gave them to Moses, who consulted briefly with his solicitor. They then packed their bags and left. The Nine team packed theirs and we all went down to the ground floor in a very silent lift, me and the legal beagles for Nine.

So who did the settlement with Llewellyn on Sunday? Guy Jalland, PBL’s senior counsel and company secretary, made the phone call, according to informed media reports.

That further indicated the dearth of managerial talent in Willoughby: only at PBL in Park Street could Nine find someone with the clout or the ability to settle Llewellyn’s wrongful dismissal case for the reported sum of a million dollars.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey