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Documents reveal ASIC’s indemnity deal with former Tennis Australia boss

“We again seek production of… the Steve Wood indemnity agreement,” writes Ms Whiting in a letter to ASIC’s lawyers. Lawyers for Mr Wood were contacted for comment.

The existence of any indemnity agreement is not confirmed in the documents. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are not suggesting Mr Wood, who has not been named as a defendant in the ASIC case, engaged in any misconduct.

Former Tennis Australia director Steve Healy.

Former Tennis Australia director Steve Healy.Credit:Nic Walker

ASIC last year launched civil action against Mr Mitchell and Mr Healy seeking to have them banned as directors and fined.

ASIC alleges the former directors withheld material from the Tennis Australia board when it made its decision to award the rights and did not inform the board of the interest of parties other than the Seven Network – namely Network Ten and US media group IMG.

Both men are vigorously defending the allegations and have denied any wrongdoing.

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Part of ASIC’s claim against Mr Mitchell is that he improperly tried to sway the rights bidding process through telephone, email and face-to-face discussions with Mr Wood.

According to the documents, several Tennis Australia directors have assisted ASIC in its investigation including Tennis greats John Fitzgerald, Janet Young, Kerryn Pratt and Ashley Cooper. Other directors, including former Bank of Melbourne boss Scott Tanner, were also interviewed by ASIC.

Ten’s former chief executive Hamish McLennan, now deputy chairman of Magellan Finance, was also interviewed by ASIC, along with other Ten executives.

Tennis Australia also handed over to ASIC the calendar entries for Mr Wood, former Tennis Australia executive Steve Ayles, Mr Mitchell and Mr Healy.

The calendar entries range from life administration – including gym sessions, haircuts and “lunch with mum and dad”, to work events including an entry titled: “Lewis Martin at the Zanuba (dont tell anyone) [sic]”.

Former Tennis Australia director Steve Healy.

Former Tennis Australia director Steve Healy.Credit:AAP

Mr Martin is the managing director of Seven Melbourne and the Zanuba was a restaurant in Toorak.

Only Mr Mitchell and Mr Healy have been accused of wrongdoing. No other director of Tennis Australia has been accused by the regulator, nor has Mr Ayles, Mr Wood, Mr McLennan or Mr Martin.

Mr Mitchell’s defence will be supported by some key witnesses including James Warburton who was chief executive at Network Ten at the time of the rights negotiations and former IMG chief executive Martin Jolly.

Mr Warburton has previously said: “I certainly never got the sense Harold was ever favouring one side over the other. For an outsider to understand a high stakes media rights negotiation when not in the rough and tumble of real time is nigh on impossible.”

The court documents also detail the battle between Mr Mitchell’s legal team and ASIC’s lawyers over access to documents.

“We are still awaiting a response to our letter of 28 June following up on our numerous requests. We reiterate our previous comments regarding ASIC’s egregious delays in respect of this matter,” Ms Whiting said in a letter to ASIC’s lawyers in July.

Ms Whiting also scolded ASIC for the way the regulator provided the calendar appointments list, describing the production as “completely unco-operative”.

ASIC’s external lawyer Peter Cash of Norton Rose Fulbright replied: “It is in our view quite inappropriate for you to set arbitrary deadlines for responses to your correspondence and then to criticise ASIC using hyperbolic terms like ‘egregious’ if (in your opinion) it does not conduct itself according to the timeline that you have demanded.”

Tennis Australia awarded Seven the Australian Open domestic broadcast rights for five years in 2013 for $195 million.

At the same time Ten had indicated it was prepared to offer up to $250 million. IMG, which owns the world rights to the FA Cup and has a deal with Football Federation Australia, made two separate offers for the five-year broadcast rights deal.

Tennis Australia last year awarded the broadcast rights to Nine in a five-year deal worth $300 million from 2020, following a tender process. The case continues.

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