Network Ten chief executive Bev McGarvey was concerned about Lisa Wilkinson’s mental state after a five-hour recorded meeting was leaked in June.
The meeting was between Wilkinson, producer of The Project Angus Llewellyn, Brittany Higgins and her boyfriend David Sharaz in a Sydney hotel room on January 27, 2021.
The purpose of the discussion was to decide how best to approach Ms. Higgins’ upcoming interview on The Project, which aired just a few weeks later in February.
The footage was leaked to the media last year and appeared on Seven’s Spotlight programme.
Emails between network bosses have been revealed in Ten’s lead trial lawyer Tasha Smithies’ affidavit filed in the Federal Court on Monday in Wilkinson’s civil case against Network Ten.
According to Smithies’ affidavit, McGarvey forwarded an email he sent to Wilkinson’s agent, Nick Fordham, on June 7, 2023.
Ms McGarvey said: “I’ve just spoken to Lisa to see how it was explained to her how challenging this week has been for her.”
‘As you well know, she really is not in a great place and I hope she is receiving professional mental health care. Please let me know if she is not currently receiving ongoing professional support and we can help provide you with access to our independent and confidential support services.
‘I explained to him that we are doing everything we can within the limits of the law to address the situation surrounding the Spotlight story. I’m not sure she was aware of that. Maybe she was, but she has a lot on her plate.
Mrs McGarvey acknowledged that Wilkinson was “very upset” by the media reports, but said: “Of course, we just can’t make them stop.”
The chief executive then said Wilkinson was frustrated the network did not tell her when she was going to appear on the front page of The Australian newspaper, but said the network was not aware before publication.
“I just wanted to let her know that we are concerned about her state of mind and that we appreciate that this is difficult for her, noting that Ten’s lawyers are taking all steps in response to the fallout from the Spotlight story that are legally available given the restrictions of the present defamation proceedings.’
A week later, McGarvey sent another Smithies email to Mr Fordham, asking for an update on Wilkinson’s mental health.
‘Can you tell me again about the note I sent you last week about how Lisa is? “We are concerned about the strain these past few weeks are putting on her mental health,” she said.
“As you know, I spoke to Lisa last week and I didn’t feel like she was in a good place, given all the coverage going on, our main concern before we start talking about other projects is that Lisa is well enough to work.”
In court on Monday, the network argued that Wilkinson’s legal fees, valued at more than $700,000, were unreasonable and should not be covered by the network.
In Ms McGarvey’s email to Mr Fordham on June 7 last year, she noted that Wilkinson had mentioned his legal fees and was “alarmed by the amount”.
Wilkinson hired Sue Chrysanthou SC to defend her before a board of inquiry into the way Bruce Lehrmann’s criminal case was handled, and then again in Mr Lehrmann’s defamation case against her and the network last year.
Chrysanthou allegedly charges around $11,000 per day.
McGarvey told Fordham that the network would have preferred Wilkinson to hire someone else, but agreed to cover his costs.
She wrote: ‘We were opposed to Lisa’s choice of solicitor from the beginning but have nevertheless confirmed that we will reimburse Lisa for the legal costs she incurred and which Ten must reimburse.
“As you know, these agreements are being discussed among outside counsel who are best placed to resolve the full scope of Ten’s obligations.”
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