Karl Stefanovic was been the subject of many a rumour since his 21-year marriage with Cassandra Thorburn ended in September, and now his boss is threatening to sue those operating the rumour mill.
Despite a number of weekly celeb mags covering the split, Nine has now confirmed it’s going after New Idea following reports that suggested Stefanovic was leaving the breakfast TODAY show to do some “soul-searching”.
New Idea is published by Pacific Magazines, which is part of Seven West Media, with the drama following another recent run-in with legal issues, after Seven attempted to sue Nine over the contentious question of who won the 2016 breakfast TV war.
In a statement to Nine’s digital lifestyle brand, 9Honey, network director of news and current affairs Darren Wick called the tabloid rumours “lazy” and “reckless”, adding the network had hired top defamation lawyer Mark O’Brien.
“This very personal campaign is being prosecuted by weekly women’s magazines running fictitious and damaging articles about Karl Stefanovic that are without any foundation of fact,” Wick said.
“At best, this is lazy and reckless reporting. At worst, there is a case that this campaign is designed to damage not only his reputation but our business as well and we no longer intend to tolerate these lies.
“Nine has instructed Mark O’Brien, one of Australia’s most experienced media and defamation lawyers, to act on Karl and Nine’s behalf in this matter and take the necessary steps to defend his reputation against the endless fabrications.”
Pacific Magazines declined to comment.
The articles alleged Stefanovic was “questioning some of his past behaviour, and knows he needs to change his ways” and taking some “time off and do some soul-searching.”
However, a Nine spokesman told news.com.au: “Karl is definitely on Today in 2017, alongside the team who have had such a successful year in 2016.”
On Monday, another story published by New Idea claimed Stefanovic had quit his job and would be moving to the United States, while previous stories suggested he’d “fallen for” a close friend. The latest story said Stefanovic has “turn[ed] his back on Today“, while a quote from a friend added, “Karl has partied hard for years and no-one really took notice”.
In a recent interview with Mamamia’s Mia Freedman, Stefanovic’s brekky co-host Lisa Wilkinson slammed the rumours and urged tabloids to leave the family to their privacy.
“There’s human beings involved here,” she stressed, adding that “a lot of lies” were being circulated.
Stefanovic was absent from the TODAY show yesterday, fuelling the “fictitious” New Idea rumours, with previous statements admitting Stefanovic would be taking time off over the summer to work through his family situation.
“Previously what we’ve done with Karl is that he has often shot 60 Minutes stories over the summer,” Wick said.
“We don’t want him doing that this year — just have a break. Obviously what he’s working through with his family situation … he needs to have a break and just rest and spend time with his family. He’s going to do that and come back fresh next year.”
Other rumours from Woman’s Day had suggested Stefanovic’s ex Thorburn was taking up a position at rival show Sunrise on Channel Seven. Meanwhile, Stefanovic is also slated to host Nine’s new program This Time Next Year alongside his breakfast hosting duties in 2017.