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Jan 23, 2012

News Limited spin doctor Greg Baxter departs

Greg Baxter, the News Limited spin doctor who in a previous life put his name to a press release that erroneously described James Hardy's asbestos compensation foundation as "fully-funded", has resigned.

Greg Baxter, the News Limited spin doctor who in a previous life put his name to a press release that erroneously described James Hardie’s asbestos compensation trust as “fully-funded”, has resigned.

In a farewell email to staff, obtained immediately by Crikey, Baxter says he had “enormous fun” at Holt Street after signing on as John Hartigan’s PR strategist eight years ago.

“I am proud of what I have achieved and I am indebted to so many who have helped me. I have been lucky to have enjoyed the support, generosity and wisdom of so many colleagues and there is very little I would change about the past eight years,” he wrote.

His exit brings to three the number of high-profile executive changes at News since new CEO Kim Williams took over from Hartigan in December. Chief Operating Officer Peter Macourt left last month and Williams also fingered the Queensland-based Jerry Harris as the company’s new managing director of newspapers and digital products. NewsLifeMedia chief executive Sandra Hook departed last week.

Macourt and Baxter were considered Hartigan’s most loyal lieutenants.

In a statement this afternoon (read the full version below), Williams lauded his departing charge’s abilities:

“On behalf of everyone at News, I want to thank Greg for his outstanding contribution during almost eight years with the company. There are very few senior executives or editors at News that have not benefited from his expertise and support.

“In particular, I want to acknowledge Greg’s strong management of some of the most difficult issues News has faced in recent years which have spanned a complex and demanding menu of strategic challenges.”

Baxter was quoted thus:

“I particularly want to thank John Hartigan, Peter Macourt and our general counsel Ian Philip for giving me so many wonderful opportunities at News and for their incredible support for me, personally as well as professionally.

“I am very privileged to have worked with so many great people, on such a vast array of projects and issues and to have had so much fun and job satisfaction along the way. News is a special place and I shall miss it immensely.”

Baxter is holding a drinks session at Surry Hills’ Aurora Hotel at 5pm on Wednesday — the same venue that Hartigan retreated when he announced his departure from the media giant in November.

In court, Baxter said that he was unsure whether the “fully-funded” release had been circulated among James Hardie’s directors prior to it being issued.

The full Greg Baxter email to staff:

From: “Baxter, Greg”
Subject: Last Day
Date: 23 January 2012 4:24:27 PM AEDT
To: “Baxter, Greg”

Hi,

This is my last day at News.

I have had a terrific time, enjoyed working with so many great people, had enormous fun and been given opportunities few other places could offer. I am proud of what I have achieved and I am indebted to so many who have helped me. I have been lucky to have enjoyed the support, generosity and wisdom of so many colleagues and there is very little I would change about the past 8 years.

You are one of the many people I’ve worked with and known who have made my time here at News so enjoyable, satisfying and rewarding.

Thank you so much.

I wish you very sincerely good health and great success in the year ahead and beyond.

For those of you in Sydney and so inclined there will, as they say, be a drink in it, this Wednesday from 5 at the Aurora.

My new email address for the time being is xxxx and the mobile is unchanged xxxx.

Regards and cheers,
Greg Baxter| Director, Corporate Affairs

The full Kim Williams statement:

The chief executive officer of News Limited Mr Kim Williams today announced that the director of corporate affairs Mr Greg Baxter will leave the company at the end of January.

“On behalf of everyone at News, I want to thank Greg for his outstanding contribution during almost eight years with the company. There are very few senior executives or editors at News that have not benefited from his expertise and support.

“In particular, I want to acknowledge Greg’s strong management of some of the most difficult issues News has faced in recent years which have spanned a complex and demanding menu of strategic challenges.

“He has earned the respect of many colleagues, competitors, industry partners and other stakeholders, including the many journalists who report on what we do.

“Greg was a central participant in establishing the media coalition Australia’s Right to Know and in its success in helping bring about changes to legislation and public policy relating to press freedom.

“He was also central in the establishment process and staging of the News Awards which have become so important as to how we recognise editorial excellence at News Limited.

“I know I speak for many people when I thank Greg for what he has given the company and wish him the very best for his future,” said Mr Williams.

Mr Baxter joined News Limited in May 2004 and since then has been a key member of the company’s senior executive team under the former chairman and chief executive, Mr John Hartigan, and the former chief operating officer, Mr Peter Macourt.

Mr Baxter said: “I particularly want to thank John Hartigan, Peter Macourt and our general counsel Ian Philip for giving me so many wonderful opportunities at News and for their incredible support for me, personally as well as professionally.

“I am very privileged to have worked with so many great people, on such a vast array of projects and issues and to have had so much fun and job satisfaction along the way. News is a special place and I shall miss it immensely.”

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