PBL chief executive John Alexander notoriously failed to force Channel Nine’s former news and current affairs boss, Mark Llewellyn, to assign attack-dog John Lyons to launch a major attack on Seven chairman Kerry Stokes.

But the new private equity owners of Nine have seemingly found a more willing participant, given the vicious Stokes profile that The Bulletin has served up this week, complete with a harsh close-up of his face all over the cover, accompanied by the headline “LOST”.

It is clear that Stokes’ first wife, Dorothy Ebert, has cooperated with the magazine, especially given the 10-strong online picture gallery, which includes number two and three of the billionaire cuddling up to women other than one of his three wives.

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Stokes’ original business partner, Kevin Merifield, is quoted saying that “he was keen on chasing the old skirt” and the magazine then trawls through the history of his three marriages when it is hardly relevant to the C7 mega-litigation.

While many observers expected the private equity owners to close The Bulletin, the magazine is actually hiring new journalists at the moment and the author of its Stokes hatchet job, Rebecca Urban, is a recent recruit from The Age.

Editor John Lehmann also devoted his entire editor’s note to the Stokes attack, which is somewhat ironic given that Lehmann was The Australian’s media writer who sat on the notorious Mark Llewellyn affidavit last year over the weekend but failed to get anything into the paper before Crikey broke the story.

The affidavit was highly damaging for John Alexander who had just recruited Lehmann on a big package to edit The Bulletin. Lo and behold, Lehmann has now belatedly delivered the very same Stokes hatchet-job that Alexander requested from Llewellyn, who is now happily working for Stokes at Seven.

Stokes is not a man who enjoys interviews or media scrutiny at the best of times, so he will no doubt be dreading the Seven AGM in November. Even worse, he’s up for re-election this year and with $200 million wasted on the C7 litigation he will probably attract a bigger “against” vote than the meagre 6 million shares that opposed him back in 2004.

It was ten years ago that Stokes told The SMH he planned to retire from the Seven board after the Sydney Olympics. Maybe it’s time to take the Solly Lew and John Singleton option and give the public company scene a miss. However, one senses he’ll struggle to let go and Seven will indeed appeal.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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