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Spotlight boss resigns after damning Lehrmann trial allegations

Mark Llewellyn says he resigned from the Seven Network.

Mark Llewellyn says he resigned from the Seven Network. Photo: Instagram

The Seven Network has confirmed the executive producer of its troubled Spotlight program has left the company after bombshell allegations regarding its dealings with Bruce Lehrmann.

Seven released a statement on Monday confirming news veteran Mark Llewellyn’s departure as the Federal Court was rejecting Lehrmann’s defamation suit against Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson.

Spotlight and Seven became embroiled in the defamation hearing after former Spotlight producer Taylor Auerbach gave lurid testimony on April 5 that he witnessed Lehrmann purchasing cocaine and attempt to order sex workers to a Sydney hotel.

Auerbach told the Federal Court he was tasked by his superiors with building trust and rapport with the 28-year-old Lehrmann, who was a prospective interview subject.

Lehmann gave an exclusive interview to Spotlight in 2023, during which he denied raping Higgins. 

Justice Michael Lee on Monday found that Lehrmann had indeed raped Higgins.

Auerbach claimed Lehrmann bought cocaine and attempted to engage sex workers at the luxury Meriton Hotel after an expensive dinner at Sydney’s Potts Point – all of which he said was reimbursed by Seven.

In a statement quoted by News Corp on Monday, Llewellyn said he was proud of Spotlight and of the “dedicated team who make it”.

“I repeat that any suggestion that I was aware of, condoned or arranged payments for illegal or unsavoury activities is wrong,” he said.

“I would like to thank my colleagues for being the backbone of a wonderful show.

“I resigned from Seven last week.”

In his testimony, Auerbach also alleged Lehrmann leaked confidential text messages from Higgins’ mobile to Seven in breach of what is known as the Harman undertaking.

Lehrmann, he said, had access to the private and personal texts through an earlier, abandoned criminal case against him, but the material was not tendered into evidence.

The Harman undertaking holds that untendered evidence from an abandoned criminal case can’t be used for other purposes.

Auerbach also claimed in the days after the Spotlight program went to air – in two episodes on June 4 and August 13 – he was told by a regular external lawyer for Seven that “Ten and Lisa are not very happy about the broadcast and might come after us”.

“I understood that this meant that I should delete any materials that could be damaging for Seven,” Auerbach said in his affidavit that was read to the court.

“I followed this direction and permanently deleted anything that I could find on my computer and phone at the time.” 

He said he was mortified when he woke the day after the night out in Sydney and realised he had charged the company, and he sent his resignation by email. However, he told the court that, instead of losing his job, he was offered a promotion and pay rise by Seven.

Seven has denied Auerbach’s allegations, labelling them “false and misleading”. In a statement sent to all staff last Thursday, the network also denied any pay rise or promotion offer to Auerbach.

“Seven is appalled by the allegations made in recent days. We do not condone the behaviours described in these allegations. They do not reflect the culture of Seven,” the statement said.

“Seven did not offer a promotion or pay rise to Mr Auerbach in November 2022, nor did it do so at any time after that.”

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