Dumped Sunrise presenter Simon Reeve was paid $250,000 a year for six hours a week work and allowed to commute from the Gold Coast, insiders claim.
Reeve, who worked on-and-off for Channel Seven for the best part of four decades, is suing the company after his departure earlier this year.
The lawsuit claims Reeve should have been paid out as an employee, but Seven argues he was just a freelancer whose contract was not renewed.
Though he was regarded as a ‘nice guy’ by colleagues, few have much sympathy for his unceremonious boning as the broadcaster makes deep cuts to staff.
‘Simon Reeve was privileged and protected at Channel 7 and everybody knew it,’ a well-placed source told Daily Mail Australia.
Simon Reeve (pictured in the Sunrise studio with Angela Cox and Sally Bowrey) worked for Channel Seven for 20 years when he was dumped earlier this year – and is now suing in the Federal Court
‘While production staff worked tirelessly for 40 hours a week and never got pay rises, Simon earned hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for six hours work a week.
‘I think most people would agree that is adequate compensation.’
Reeve is understood to have earned about $250,000 a year from Seven despite not being the regular frontman for any show.
Instead, he commuted to Sydney from his sprawling home in the Gold Coast hinterland every week and was put up in hotels at Seven’s expense.
Insiders claimed generous pay and the expense of couriering him between his home and the Sydney studio made him an obvious cost-cutting target.
‘The axe was always going to fall on Simon. Seven flew him down and paid for his accommodation every week for the weekend show while production staff couldn’t get a cab charge,’ one said.
‘It just wouldn’t happen today. I mean, nice guy, but hardly a star.’
Reeve was flown from his large property on the Gold Coast (pictured) to Sydney each weekend, and put up in a hotel, each week to present the sport on Weekend Sunrise. This photo of him at home in July shows his white beard getting longer
Reeve frequently posts photos in Instagram of himself on the property – working in the yard or relaxing in the tranquil surrounds
Another factor making Reeve’s departure an easy call was the Queensland-NSW border slamming shut in March, making the cozy arrangement impossible.
Reeve was quietly dumped on June 25 about the same time – as several other higher-profile stars at Seven and Channel 10 were let go.
His exit was contrasted with former Sunrise host Mel Doyle, who was publicly feted by a host of stars and praise from the network, while Reeve went without fanfare.
‘Simon is only making news because he’s pinning his departure to the exit of Mel Doyle but their exits couldn’t be further apart,’ the insider said.
‘One left with grace, the other on a money grab.’
A senior Seven source told Daily Mail Australia that Reeve was given the same opportunity by Sunrise producer Michael Pell.
‘He offered Simon the option of doing an official goodbye on air with Weekend Sunrise. He declined,’ they said.
‘Big contrast to how Mel Doyle handled her departure.’
Reeve had essentially worked odd jobs on Seven in recent years, hosting game shows Million Dollar Minute and It’s Academic and presenting sport on Weekend Sunrise.
Reeve hosted It’s Academic and Million Dollar Minute until both shows were axed, and since then has primarily been the Weekend Sunrise sport presenter
Reeve (above with Larry Emdur and Monique Wright) has been on Weekend Sunrise for about a decade but hasn’t appeared on screen since March
Court documents allege he was told to ‘cease performing services’ on Weekend Sunrise on March 16 by producer Matt McGrane.
He only appeared on screen twice more – reporting on Seven’s ANZAC Day coverage and shops reopening in Brisbane as the coronavirus lockdown ended.
His court filing insisted his ‘age, seniority, and length of service’ entitled him to 12 months notice, but insiders questioned whether his profile warranted this assessment.
‘Let’s be frank – he’s not a star, never was a star. Show his photo to 100 people walking through Martin Place and none of them will know who he is,’ one said.
‘You have casuals and staff who are quietly being let go after years of service, not replaced and now on JobSeeker and Simon wants more money? It fails the pub test.’
Reeve ‘lawyering up’ has not gone over well with Seven’s rank and file, either – many of them were made redundant and others are on JobKeeper.
Many of those who survived the months of culling took pay cuts and the network handed out $200 food vouchers to staffers struggling to stay afloat.
Reeve spent most of the week, when not put up in a swanky Sydney hotel, relaxing on his two-acre estate in well-to-do Tallai.
He acquired the 7,735sqm five-bedroom, three bathroom house and estate he shares with his wife Linda for $848,000 in 2010.
Reeve spent most of the week, when not put up in a swanky Sydney hotel, relaxing on his two-acre estate in well-to-do Tallai he bought for $848,000 in 2010
He and his wife Linda also bought a four-bedroom terrace overlooking Sydney’s Coogee Beach for $549,000 in 1998, which they rent out for $1,250 a week
Reeve frequently posts photos in Instagram of himself on the property – working in the yard or relaxing in the tranquil surrounds.
The white beard he sports in each photo, and shaved off before going on air, has grown considerably longer in recent photos.
The couple also bought a four-bedroom terrace overlooking Sydney’s Coogee Beach for $549,000 in 1998, which they rent out for $1,250 a week.
At the heart of the legal dispute is whether he was an employee of Seven – as Reeve argues he was – or an independent contractor at the time.
Simon Reeve is suing Seven, claiming it breached his ‘ongoing contract’ and misrepresented his employment status
Seven will defend the case and is expected to argue Reeve had ‘changed his tune’ on being a contractor after being axed.
No dollar figure has been placed on the lawsuit.
Reeve claims Seven breached his ‘ongoing contract’ and misrepresented his employment status.
‘All I am asking for is nothing more than all Australian workers are entitled to… even those living on the Gold Coast,’ he earlier told the Daily Telegraph.
Reeve is yet to respond to messages from Daily Mail Australia and Seven declined to comment.
In supporting statements filed to the court, Reeve claims emails sent to him by Mr Stokes in July prove that he was considered an employee.
‘I’m so sorry,’ Mr Stokes said on July 3, according to the documents, before insinuating that Reeve had been made redundant.
An email sent by Seven West Media chief operations officer Bruce McWilliam read that Reeve was: ‘Part of the DNA of this place since before I can remember.’
‘You’ll leave a big hole as you’ve been part of the weekend line up for so long. Won’t be the same without you as you’re part of our DNA,’ he wrote in another email on July 16, according to the court documents.
Seven has contended these emails were presented out of context and do not imply what Reeve claims they do.
Reeve regularly worked on Sunrise and was a regular presence when Mel and Kochie were on the couch. Above, the trio together in 2013 – with Kochie the only survivor
Reeve has been on and off Channel Seven for the past 40 years. Above, he poses with longtime colleagues Doyle and Kylie Gillies at a Seven Christmas party in 2007
The origin of the TV term ‘boned’
When Today Show host Jessica Rowe’s head was on the chopping block in 2006, it was alleged Eddie McGuire had spoken of having her ‘boned’ – or axed, in other words.
‘What are we going to do about Jessica? When should we bone her? I reckon it should be next week,’ it was claimed McGuire, then the network’s CEO, said.
McGuire later claimed he had said ‘burn’ instead of ‘bone’, but the damage was done.
It has since entered the Australian lexicon for when TV presenters are axed.
In Reeve’s statement of claim, which was filed to the Federal Court, he argues that he was an employee according to the Fair Work Act and therefore was entitled to annual leave payments, a notice period for his departure and a redundancy package.
‘It was an implied term of the ongoing contract that Seven would provide Reeve with reasonable notice of termination,’ his statement of claims reads.
‘Reasonable notice for Reeve as at 25 June 2020 given his age, seniority and length of service, was not less than 12 months’ notice of termination.’
Reeve is claiming 12 months’ salary in lieu of termination notice in court, as well as compensation over the failure to receive annual leave, interest and costs.
Reeve, known as one of the network’s ‘nice guys’, had been with Seven for almost four decades in one role or another when he was shown the door – as the economic downturn ravages Australian TV businesses.
The lawsuit sets the stage for what could be the highest-profile court stoush Seven has faced since the network and former CEO Tim Worner’s executive assistant Amber Harrison sued one another in 2017.
Both Seven and Reeve’s lawyers declined to comment, with a court date yet to be set.
Reeve, far right, was a long term contributor to Weekend Sunrise but is understood to be living on the Gold Coast
It has been a year of bloodshed in the TV industry with big names shown the door at both Seven and Network 10.
Sunrise presenter Melissa Doyle was another casualty of the coronavirus-induced cost-cutting at Channel Seven.
She issued a statement upon her departure where she singled out Seven chairman Stokes for his support.
Melissa Doyle and Seven executives exchanged gushing statements when she left the building
‘For 25 years, I have called Channel 7 home,’ she said. ‘I’ve had the privilege to share stories that mattered, meet incredible people and be there for significant moments in history.
‘I am incredibly proud of the work I have done and appreciative of the trust and warmth our viewers have shown me.
‘I want to thank the consummate professionals I have worked with along the way, in particular our chairman Kerry Stokes for his constant support.
‘I leave Seven with a great deal of pride, satisfaction and gratitude.’
Seven chief executive James Warburton thanked the former Sunrise host for ‘everything she’s done for the Seven Network.’
‘Melissa has deserved every success that’s come her way’.
There was no such song and dance for Reeve – who started his career at Seven in Western Australia in 1979.
Meanwhile, 10 axed state-based bulletins in Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, as well as legendary weatherman Tim Bailey – who worked there for 29 years.