Fin meltdown complete. The Australian Financial Review received formal resignations last night from deputy editor Brett Clegg, Clegg’s wife and news editor Annabel Hepworth and Melbourne bureau chief Damon Kitney, as Crikey reported on Wednesday. The appointments will be trumpeted in tomorrow’s Weekend Australian, with editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell said to be proud as punch. “Send me your pay slip and I’ll match it,” Mitchell reportedly boomed, after rumours of the trio’s discontent gathered pace. At their new digs at The Oz, Clegg will become ‘deputy editor (business)’, Hepworth senior business writer and Kitney Victorian business editor.
Insiders have reported chaos inside The Fin‘s Pyrmont offices this morning, with Fairfax CEO Brian McCarthy planning to personally address the remaining staff to express his “confidence” in editor-in-chief Glenn Burge. Newsroom snouts have told Crikey Burge has been locked in his office in desperate conversations with the Fairfax board. Chairman Roger Corbett reportedly made a personal plea for Clegg to stay, but by then it was too late — the relationship with Burge, who in happier times was anointed the godfather of Clegg and Hepworth’s daughter, had turned toxic.
Well-placed sources say Burge and Clegg fell out after Clegg started expanding his reach at the paper, leading to Burge threatening his direct report with a salary cut. Another sticking point was said to be the appointment of overseas recruit Aaron Patrick to head the paper’s companies section, which was backed by Burge but not by Clegg. Burge is now under serious pressure to fall on his sword, Crikey understands.
And it could get even worse. Insiders say the paper’s last great news breaker is former Street Talk Editor and now AFR New York correspondent Anthony Hughes. Hughes was expected to be a logical choice for the Chanticleer column, vacated by Alan Jury, but has been left out of the loop, despite his friendship with Burge forged when the duo toiled at the Sydney Morning Herald.
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Sources say the bleeding of the AFR‘s corporate reporting group (and those journalists’ contacts lists) began in September last year when a series of high-profile departures gutted the companies section and left Burge reeling. Along with the latest three, the departure list since September includes:
- Simon Evans: senior companies reporter with over 10 years experience; a strong news breaker with excellent contacts in investment banking as well as retail and gaming (September)
- Tracy Lee: companies editor with excellent contacts in funds management, board rooms and a specialty in telecommunications (September)
- Karen Maley: senior financial services reporter and feature writer; strong banking contact book (September)
- Ingrid Mansell: senior business writer; great news breaker responsible for features on personalities across several sectors. Strong investment banking and private equity contact book (October)
- James Chessell: associate editor, formally financial services editor; took his terrific contact book and news breaking skill to The Oz (November)
- Michael Smith: deputy companies editor; has taken his strong aviation specialty to Reuters (leaves in four weeks)
- Alan Jury: Chanticleer columnist (leaves in three weeks)
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