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ASIC launches action against two former Tennis Australia directors

ASIC launches action against two former Tennis Australia directors
November 19, 2018

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has launched federal court action against the former directors of Tennis Australia, Harold Mitchell and Stephen Healy, for allegedly withholding information from the Tennis Australia board when it was deciding on the sport’s broadcasting rights in 2013.

According to ASIC, Mitchell, while on the board of Tennis Australia, allegedly supplied confidential information to the Seven Network to help it win the domestic television broadcast rights for the Australian Open for a five-year period. 

ASIC alleges that both Mitchell and Healy failed to ensure the board was fully informed as to the value of the rights and of other interested parties. 

Mitchell is alleged to have failed in advising the board that Seven was worried about its competitor, Network Ten, acquiring the rights, and encouraged the Tennis Australia board to strike the agreement with Seven instead of putting the rights out to a competitive tender.

A former media buyer, businessman and philanthropist, Mitchell holds board positions at the James Packer-backed casino company Crown Resorts and several other organisations, including Free TV Australia, the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the New York Philharmonic, and the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

Responding to ASIC's allegations on Monday, Mitchell said he had, for “ten successful years”, always “acted in the best interests of Tennis Australia”.
“The matter is with my lawyers,” he said.

ASIC is applying for penalties and wants the court to declare Mitchell and Healy breached the Corporations Act, with each breach attracting a $200,000 penalty for individuals.
It is also seeking that both be disqualified from managing corporations.

Channel Nine earlier this year won the Australia Open broadcast rights from Seven in a $300 million deal with Tennis Australia from 2020 to 2024.

Healy was appointed as a director to the Tennis Australia board in 2008, and was elected as president in 2010, a position he held until stepping down in 2017.
Mitchell was appointed as a director at the same time as Healy, who served as vice-president of Tennis Australia from 2010 until his retirement last month.

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