Media mogul Harold Mitchell has won his legal battle against ASIC over his role in negotiating the Australian open television rights.
ASIC has sought to have Mitchell fined and banned from being a company director, accusing the former Tennis Australia director of putting Seven’s interests over Tennis Australia’s.
41 out of 44 of the charges levelled against Mitchell were thrown out.
In his judgement, Justice Jonathan Beach said that although Mitchell had breached the Corporations Act, some of the accusations levelled against him had been exaggerated.
“In my view, he did so contravene s 180(1) on three occasions … but his contraventions are far narrower in scope than ASIC would have it.”
Mitchell will now face a “moderate pecuniary penalty”, but will not be banned from being a director or sitting on boards, as ASIC had requested.
Justice Beach also commented on the accusation that Mitchell had helped Seven secure the rights in 2013, when Network 10 had shown interest in the tournament.
“He did not think much of legal niceties and long-form agreements; as he would perceive it, mere matters of detail that had the tendency to produce unnecessary delay,” the judgement said.
“But ASIC’s case that Mr Mitchell deliberately sought to prefer Seven’s interests over TA’s [Tennis Australia] interests fails. I am satisfied that, although some of his conduct could be criticised, nevertheless he acted in what he perceived to be TA’s interests.”
Following the win, Mitchell’s publicist Tim Allerton lashed the regulator for pursuing his client.
“These allegations were clearly without any basis whatsoever from the outset of its investigation, yet ASIC chose to continue its misguided case,” the statement read.
“ASIC completely misunderstood the TV rights negotiations… relying on allegations from former Tennis Australia board members with an axe to grind.”
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