Eddie McGuire has been one of Crikey’s favourite characters over the past seven years, so it seems appropriate to take a stroll down memory lane as we contemplate the first major set-back of his career – surrendering the top job at Channel Nine.
When the man Eddie appointed to run news and current affairs at Nine, Gary Linnell, produced his 2002 Good Weekend cover story on Crikey, the Broadie boy wasn’t particularly complimentary and finished up on a Crikey mug with this quote:
I wouldn’t even cross the street to give him a backhander – or a writ for that matter – because I don’t want to give him the oxygen he craves. His reputation is of having no credibility and of having dudded every person who tried to lend him a hand.
Ordinarily, the temptation would be to dance on Eddie’s grave, but instead we’d like to thank him for lending us a huge hand over the years and providing enormous oxygen with a rich vein of material.
A 10,000 word piece is pretty rare in this game, but Ross Stapleton, aka Patrick Fitzgerald, produced this monster on Eddie’s conflicts in 2002 which really got up his nose. He even told someone at the Melbourne Press Club he wanted to punch me in the nose.
Crikey was hopping into Eddie well before it became a popular sport, including this detailed analysis of his Herald Sun column and the way he used it to plug his various commercial and personal interests.
Whilst fronting corporate AGMs is pretty straightforward, I could never have done what Neal Woolrich did in 2001 when he went into the bear pit of a Collingwood AGM and lobbed several tough questions at Eddie which is always fun to look back on.
You could never get away from the issue of conflict of interest with Eddie and the lad really didn’t have a clue – as the decision to poach his own Channel Nine Melbourne boss as Collingwood CEO demonstrated.
Another classic was the way Eddie and Steve Vizard went around in 1999 buying up the AFL internet rights to various clubs through Sportsview at the same time as Telstra was trying to secure the rights for Bigpond.
Then, of course, there was the famous Mark Llewellyn affidavit when the radical redefinition of Jessica Rowe’s employment became the thing Eddie’s CEO tenure will be best remembered for.
This incident gave Crikey more oxygen than any other because Eddie then decided to sue after we’d already sent the story to 38,000 people. The Crikey website and email edition are still blocked at all Packer outlets such as Crown, Nine and ACP, so if anyone bumps into Eddie, could they please pass on our sincere thanks.
Finally, James Packer told last year’s PBL AGM he would be embarrassed if the Eddie appointment didn’t work out so it will be fun to revisit the issue when shareholders next gather in October.
Here’s the account of last year’s AGM when James admitted the Llewellyn affidavit “could have been better handled”.