The ousted boss of Judith Neilson’s ailing journalism institute has secured legal advice to sue the organization over its sacking as executive director.
Mark Ryan, a former adviser to Paul Keating and longtime adviser to the Lowy family, has led the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas since its inception and worked with lawyers to negotiate its exit after Neilson demanded its removal .
In an email sent to the JNI International Advisory Board early last week, seen by this masthead, Ryan says he still hasn’t received a reason for his withdrawal.
“This was a very disappointing episode to say the least, especially since no coherent rationale was provided for what was a totally unnecessary disruption to the Institute and its hard-working staff,” Ryan said in an email last Tuesday. .
“This is Clayton Utz, Australia’s leading employment law firm advising me that I have good reason to pursue legal action and reserve my rights in this regard.”
Ryan did not respond to requests for comment for this article. His exit came more than two months after the Institute’s four independent trustees received a letter from Neilson outlining his intention to remove him from office and appoint his daughter Beau Neilson and attorney Daniel Appleby as administrators.
The letter, which Neilson said may have surprised the board, backtracked on long-term plans for a coveted international prize for ideas, which was about to be announced and which was originally his idea.
This led to the departure of its independent trustees – former NSW judge Jim Spigelman, chief executive of Free TV Bridget Fair, former CEO of the Victoria State Library and current boss of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation Kate Torney, and the editor of The Australian Paul Kelly – concerned about the independence of the organisation.
For their part, sources close to the institute said staff members had a clear view of Neilson’s new vision and had not raised any concerns internally.