Australian Financial Review deputy editor Brett Clegg is poised to abandon the beleaguered tabloid and move to The Australian on a $300,000 deal, presumably to edit its well-regarded business section.
According to sources very close to the negotiations, Clegg will soon add to the parade of departures from The Fin — but has requested his partner Annabel Hepworth, the paper’s deputy news editor, also be accommodated in The Oz newsroom.
The move is also complicated by the fact AFR editor-in-chief Glenn Burge is the godfather to Clegg and Hepworth’s daughter. However, the two are rumoured to have fallen out, with Fairfax insiders saying Burge is miffed the paper’s much-hyped Dealbook section has failed to turn heads.
Crikey contacted Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell late this morning with the rumour, but he wasn’t commenting. “Not yet mate,” he replied. Mitchell is believed to have been aggressively courting Clegg for months in an attempt to transfer his fat contact book from Pyrmont to Holt Street.
Clegg is expected to join current deputy editor (business) Clive Mathieson at the helm of the section, which has developed a reputation for breaking business news. Clegg’s phone was diverted to voice mail when Crikey called before deadline.
The move will add to a parade of high-profile journalists jumping ship from The Fin to join the rival national daily. Last week, the author of the prestigious Chanticleer column, Alan Jury, announced he would give up the gig to return to the corporate sector.
Clegg is believed to have been aggrieved that he was overlooked for the Chanticleer position, believing he could integrate it into his current role. The column is regarded among media insiders as the most valuable page of business op-ed real estate in the country.
The rumour has been doing the rounds at the The Australian this week but apparently been dismissed by journalists who remember that Mitchell was not happy when a story appeared in Clegg’s Prince column, in April last year, alleging that leading Sydney spinner John Connolly had a contract to “open doors at the big end of town” on behalf of The Australian. But Connolly’s gig was complete fiction.
Other departees on a conveyor belt from The Fin to The Oz in recent years include John Durie, Lyndall Crisp and Andrew Main. News Limited insiders told Crikey this morning the paper has suffered inexorable declines, in both circulation and prestige, at the hands of its current management team.
“The Fin had the world at its feet and that’s been eroded,” they said. “There’s no old heads, and no one knows where the bodies are buried.”