New ABC boss can’t explain Guthrie’s sacking

"I can't tell you why [her leadership style] was wrong for the ABC," said David Anderson

"I can't tell you why [her leadership style] was wrong for the ABC," said David Anderson Photo: AAP

Michelle Guthrie’s interim replacement is unable to say why her “dynamic” leadership style was wrong for the ABC board or why she was sacked as managing director.

Acting managing director David Anderson, a 30-year ABC veteran, was full of praise in his first interview since Ms Guthrie’s shock ousting.

“Michelle’s leadership style was dynamic. Michelle challenged us in a lot of ways to be better, challenged us to free up more money for content and went about that over the past two-and-a-half years,” he told the ABC on Tuesday.

He said he could not provide any further insight into why the ABC board removed Ms Guthrie.

“It’s a matter for the board,” he said. “It was their decision and their deliberations, I’m not privy to the deliberations.

“I don’t think ABC board deliberations ever come out in public.”

justin milne michelle guthrie

ABC chair Justin Milne with Michelle Guthrie. Photo: AAP

Mr Anderson denied any knowledge of reports that senior ABC executives were so unhappy with Ms Guthrie that they were prepared to quit. ABC News Breakfast presenter Michael Rowland said on Tuesday he had been told that by a source close to the ABC board.

Asked if he was among them, Mr Anderson said he was not.

Several high-profile ABC staff welcomed the news of Ms Guthrie’s dismissal on Monday. Among them were ABC Melbourne radio host Jon Faine and Four Corners executive producer Sally Neighbour.

Justifying the decision, board chairman Justin Milne said Ms Guthrie’s relationship with the government could have been better, and she was not the right leader for the ABC.

“The board felt in the end that her leadership style was not the style that we needed going forward. We needed a different leadership style,” Mr Milne told the ABC.

Ms Guthrie is considering her legal options, and has reportedly hired a female solicitor who represented Amber Harrison in her dispute with Seven Network.

Ms Guthrie turned down an offer to depart the ABC by mutual agreement, and faces a large payout of $1 million, The New Daily reported.

She has said she was “devastated” by her termination.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expected the ABC board to follow its protocols and processes for employing leaders.

“No one has advised me, that hasn’t occurred through the minister,” he said in Sydney on Tuesday.

They’ve taken that decision and I look forward to them getting on with the job of recruiting and recommending a new managing director.”

Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie said she hoped Ms Guthrie’s replacement focused on rural and regional Australia.

“We have seen the guts ripped out of our service provision, not just under Ms Guthrie,” she told Sky News.

Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said the sacking took her by surprise, and Australians would be curious about what had happened at the broadcaster.

“I think there will be opportunities for that coming up at Senate estimates in the near future,” Ms Rowland told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

Various reports said the relationship between Ms Guthrie and Mr Milne had broken down recently. Her contract contained a clause allowing the board to sack her at any time.

The first woman to run the ABC and a former Google and News Corp executive, Ms Guthrie was appointed in May 2016 to drive digital transformation.

ABC journalists and the media union have criticised Ms Guthrie’s leadership, and have expressed hope the next director will be an advocate for the broadcaster.

-with AAP

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