Yesterday on Mumbrella, fading Financial Review supremo Michael Gill made the audacious claim that his main daily print competitor The Australian “loses $70 million a year”.

The comment came in response to an awkward question from Tim Burrowes about whether Gill found it strange that his job had recently been offered to The Australian’s gun recruit Brett Clegg (who, to complete the circle, was previously The Fin‘s deputy editor alongside journo wife Annabel Hepworth before the duo were poached by The Oz last year. Clegg is said to have used the Fairfax offer to snag a pay rise in his new position as The Australian’s “Deputy CEO”).

Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell hit back hard this morning, telling Crikey that The Oz “has never made a double figures loss and has been profitable for most of the past 25 years.

“This is an achievement given it has three times the number of journalists as The AFR, large bureaus around the country and the world and is not a specialist niche publication as is The AFR.  What Mr Gill conveniently forgets is the enormous contribution of The Weekend Australian to our bottom line. The Weekend Australian sells 300,000 copies and is packed with display classified recruitment ads. It contributes between $75 million and $85 million to annual revenue and is unmatched by any edition of The AFR, especially its ad-free Saturday edition.”

Mitchell also suggested we take look at the latest edition of BRW magazine “…and ask Mr Gill why there is only one paid ad in it.” Unfortunately, Gill appears to have little time for Crikey, telling Burrowes that he “doesn’t think” he is a current subscriber.

In an amusing postscript to this story, it seems The Australian‘s media diarist took a shine to Crikey‘s enquiries this morning, with this author’s name inadvertently popping up in a story on the fracas. The quote, provided by Mitchell in full to us was “I suggest Andrew you have a good hard look at the current edition of BRW and ask Mr Gill why there is only one paid ad in it,” which appeared online a good two hours after we obtained it (the reference to “Andrew” was swiftly removed). Always nice to get a mention in The Oz!