Sunrise presenter Simon Reeve unleashes on Seven

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Boned’ Sunrise presenter Simon Reeve slams Seven’s ’embarrassing’ demand that he pay back six years of wages after getting $250K for ‘six hours work a week’ – as he tearfully packs up his family home

  • Weekend Sunrise’s Simon Reeve slams a move by Seven to counter-sue him 
  • ‘Embarrassing, misconceived … liable to be struck out,’ court defence says 
  • Veteran presenter, 58, is demanding a payout of up to $1million from Seven
  • But Seven claims if TV network is liable Reeve owes them six years of earnings
  • Network told the court on Wednesday his role involved about six hours’ work 
  • Reeve packed up his family acreage in the Gold Coast hinterland last week
  • In sentimental post, host said he was ‘smiling through the tears and emotions’

‘Boned’ Weekend Sunrise host Simon Reeve has struck back at Channel Seven, slamming a network lawsuit demanding he pay back six years of his wages as ’embarrassing’. 

The axed TV personality fired back at Seven in a blistering Federal Court defence filed this past week, after the veteran presenter was let go in June after about 18 years of service.  

Reeve, 58, took cash-strapped Seven to court demanding a redundancy payout of up to $1million. But Seven counter-sued him – claiming he was a contractor and that he ought to repay almost six years of his wages if a judge finds he’s owed employee benefits.

That has provoked a fiery response from Reeve in court documents, filed in the past week while he grapples with the loss of his $250,000-a-year job. 

Reeve, who Seven claimed worked for about six hours per week in recent years, recently told friends he was ‘smiling through tears’ as he and his wife Linda packed up the family’s Gold Coast acreage.

Axed Weekend Sunrise presenter Simon Reeve posted a sentimental goodbye to his family home (above) in the Gold Coast hinterland. 'Smiling through the tears and emotions today,' he said

Axed Weekend Sunrise presenter Simon Reeve posted a sentimental goodbye to his family home (above) in the Gold Coast hinterland. ‘Smiling through the tears and emotions today,’ he said

Reeve (pictured with the Sunrise Cash Cow) was let go in June and is now suing Channel Seven for up to $1million, claiming he should have been given a redundancy payout.

Reeve (pictured with the Sunrise Cash Cow) was let go in June and is now suing Channel Seven for up to $1million, claiming he should have been given a redundancy payout.

In a brutal conclusion to his seven-page defence denying Seven’s lawsuit, Reeve’s lawyers said: ‘Reeve and (Simon Reeve Productions) say the cross claim is misconceived, embarrassing, fails to disclose a reasonably arguable cause of action and is liable to be struck out.’   

Reeve argued Seven would be ‘unjustly enriched’ if he had to pay them back.   

Lawyers for the presenter and Seven faced off in the Federal Court on Wednesday morning with the TV network’s lawyer saying Reeve had worked on average for six hours a week for the past two or three years.  

Seven’s barrister Yaseen Shariff SC told the court that Reeve’s private company had ‘supplied the labour of the first applicant (Simon Reeve) for approximately six hours on average for about the two to three years preceding the termination of that contract’.

Mr Shariff told the court Seven was seeking documents about the work Reeve was performing ‘for the balance of the week’.

‘We have information to suggest there was at least one other production the first applicant was working on.’

Justice Geoffrey Flick urged the parties to cooperate – telling both at separate points ‘don’t play games’ – and ordered the case return to court next week, with Reeve’s side expected to produce documents.

‘I encourage you, if you wish to survive, both of you, to effect a bit of cooperation,’ the judge said.  

Reeve is claiming the TV station owes him employee entitlements, such as a redundancy payout. 

A bearded Reeve is snapped leaving his property, from which Daily Mail Australia has previously revealed he flew down from each week to present Weekend Sunrise

A bearded Reeve is snapped leaving his property, from which Daily Mail Australia has previously revealed he flew down from each week to present Weekend Sunrise 

But Seven insists he isn’t owed anything, arguing he was paid as a contractor through the company Simon Reeve Productions. 

Reeve claims in his defence that ‘in reality’ he was an employee of Seven since 2002. 

He wanted his role to be ‘characterised’ as an employee back in 2005, the document said. 

Seven refused to do so because the move would apparently cause issues between the station’s News and Production budgets, given he worked with both departments. 

While the case is set to return to court next week, for Reeve, life goes on. 

He announced on Instagram last Monday that he and his wife Linda had packed up their acreage in the Gold Coast hinterland. 

The Tallai property, which the couple bought for $848,000 in 2010, was recently sold for $1.08 million, property records said.

Reeve's property included a stable and a shelter for horses - but the longtime presenter picked up sticks after losing his job and vacated the premises in the past week

Reeve’s property included a stable and a shelter for horses – but the longtime presenter picked up sticks after losing his job and vacated the premises in the past week

The two-acre property in the Gold Coast hinterland overlooks tranquil surroundings (above)

The two-acre property in the Gold Coast hinterland overlooks tranquil surroundings (above) 

A real estate advertisement said the home includes a 14m pool and outdoor entertaining area for dozens of guests with a cabana and a barbeque

A real estate advertisement said the home includes a 14m pool and outdoor entertaining area for dozens of guests with a cabana and a barbeque

‘Smiling through the tears and emotions today,’ the presenter told his followers. 

‘After 10 years of special memories, we pulled out of our driveway in the Gold Coast hinterland with 2 dogs, a wok and a suitcase or 12 for the last time.’

Reeve had flown down from Gold Coast to Sydney for the Weekend Sunrise sports presenting role each week until the coronavirus struck in March.  

He was officially let go in June, with insiders blaming his departure on his counterpart at Nine’s Weekend Today, Clint Stanaway, moving on, plus financial pressures at Seven. 

‘Nine had dumped its weekend sports presenter on Today and we couldn’t justify keeping [Reeve] on. So we didn’t renew his contract,’ a Seven source said. 

‘He was just so expensive, flying him up and back and accommodating him – as well as the retainer. You can get a dedicated junior for half that and no expenses.

‘News was under such pressure. Axing him saved close to half a million [dollars] and didn’t lose anything on air.’ 

Kicked off the couch: The long-time Sunrise personality (right) was told his services were no longer needed in May and launched legal action in the Federal Court in September

Kicked off the couch: The long-time Sunrise personality (right) was told his services were no longer needed in May and launched legal action in the Federal Court in September

Upon getting the chop, Reeve complained about being offered just five weeks pay in a personal email to chairman Kerry Stokes and corporate director Bruce McWilliam.

In the message, Reeve wrote: ‘I understand times are tough for the business, but five weeks won’t come close to giving my family and I a reasonable buffer. 

‘I’m stung and distraught to think my years with 7… was worth five weeks pay.’   

This past week, though, he was nothing but thankful. 

He publicly praised his wife, Linda, for ‘creating the home and the bonds that connected us to a unique, wonderful and embracing community.

‘Lucky fella am I,’ he said.  

Simon Reeve’s full ‘thank you’ email to Seven network bosses Kerry Stokes and Bruce McWilliam

Dear Kerry and Bruce,

I just wanted to say thank you for the opportunities and wonderful times with the 7 network, since I commenced my second stint of employment back from living in Botswana in 2002.

From producing Undercover Angels, hosting Quizmaster, the incredible Bali bombing appeal, News presenting, Sunrise, Weekend Sunrise, It’s Academic for 9 years, The Force for 13 years, commentating at the Athens and Beijing Olympics, It Takes Two, Million Dollar Minute, the odd failed pilot and many memorable Telethons, there have been few dull moments.

Live television especially has a way of producing adrenaline like few other professions and I will never forget the visceral moment the surviving members of the Bali bombings from Kingsley Football club walked into the studio at TVW as I stood in front of a camera introducing them, with people standing and clapping thunderously, including the floor crew.

Simon Reeve is suing Seven, claiming it breached his 'ongoing contract' and misrepresented his employment status

Simon Reeve is suing Seven, claiming it breached his ‘ongoing contract’ and misrepresented his employment status

I was near speechless with the emotion and haven’t had an experience in television like it, before or since.

It seemed the ultimate expression of our platform that day to convey something important and make a difference.

I will also never forget announcing Trevor Sauer winning $750,000 on Quizmaster in 2002 and Andrew Skarbek pocketing a million bucks on MDM in 2015. 

There’s something about saying, ‘That’s correct… you have just won a million dollars’ that triggers a first (OMG) thought for the Chairman of the company!

I love television. It’s all I’ve known over 41 years since walking into the TVW Dianella building in February, 1979 as a pimply, clueless 17 year old. Every single day I’ve cared deeply about the job I do and the product to which I contribute.

When Michael rang me Thursday of last week to say the role of Weekend Sunrise sports presenter/features reporter was no longer required, I was devastated.

I’ve been very patient over the past 3 months as Martin Place has dealt with Covid-19 disruption, offering work arounds including relocating to Sydney for as long as it took, but understanding the challenges. 

It hasn’t been easy with no pay through this time thrust upon us. I thought with Jim’s departure and Ryan’s leaving in the past fortnight, it stood me in good stead as an experienced hand to keep my job. It wasn’t to be.

When I asked Michael in that same phone call if there was an exit payment in mind, he suggested 5 weeks.

I have to say that was a huge shock.

I broke the news to my family only yesterday, unable to pretend anymore that I was going back to work.

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 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

I would have walked into the sunset with no regrets if after 18 incredible years with 7, I’d been offered fair exit terms, for what I feel has been an unfailingly whole hearted effort. Decency and work ethic are everything to me. Funny, but I’m most proud of It’s Academic. 

I know I’m well respected and liked by my colleagues and have been a sounding board for many on air people, producers and others over the years, through their own challenges.

I’m 58 and far from thoughts of retirement. Not that Linda would let me, not that I can, not that I’d want to. I have too much to give and to do. We face a very uncertain future given the state of the industry and the economy more generally. 

I understand times are tough for the business, but 5 weeks won’t come close to giving my family and I a reasonable buffer.

I’ve never quibbled over or demanded anything, the first number that was put on any contract with 7 I’ve been happy to sign, without an agent.

I’ve much preferred direct, eye to eye ‘gentlemen’s’ agreements.

Bruce, I have always enjoyed speaking and dealing with you and your honesty and integrity.

I believe I still had a lot to offer 7 and as much as anyone on air across the network, I think I represented a good example of the best of our brand. 

In some capacity I reckon I’ve been on air pretty much every day on our network for the last 10 years or so, either live, with a new episode or on a re-run of a show.

People I meet comment on this all the time.

A much younger Reeve has been on Channel Seven, on and off, for 41 years

A much younger Reeve has been on Channel Seven, on and off, for 41 years  

I know cost cutting is a reality of our industry and our company at the moment, but I’m stung and distraught to think my 18 years with 7 this time (plus 8 years when I was a much younger chap, and another 5 years on Beyond 2000) … 31 years on the screens of 7, was worth 5 weeks pay. 

Aside from this, it doesn’t recognise I’ve spent these 12 weeks without pay, trying to find ways to be a contributor, with little feedback.

This is a personal note Kerry and Bruce and I apologise for its length. However I felt reaching out honestly to the 2 people who have been very good to me over many years at 7, might count towards reaching an agreement that enables a period of unprecedented certainty for my family, weekends home and the chance to find other work.

I hope you can view it in the genuine spirit in which it is written.

Although I’ve witnessed a lot, I’ve avoided scandal and despised the privileged behaviour of others, conscious of my good fortune to have a job at 7. 

I’ve been a lucky, loyal, bloody hard working and proud part of the network eco-system. 

It would be a pleasure to speak to either of you further if you wanted, or a staff member you might want to put me in touch with, in the context of this background.

If you got this far, I deeply appreciate it.

All the very best to you both.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Reeve

Reeve with his daughter Stella Reeve and music legend Molly Meldrum

Reeve with his daughter Stella Reeve and music legend Molly Meldrum

Reeve then sent this reply later that day after Mr Stokes and Mr McWilliam responded:

Dear Kerry and Bruce

Thanks so much for the kind replies.

(I have literally been out picking up horse poo for the last 2 hours.)

I understand the strain out there. It’s palpable even here in Covid free Qld.

I would not have written this at all, there is too much on your plates to address individual circumstances and I would have limped off into the sunset after these years happily enough if there had been an exit plan that reflected my 18 years this time around and my long association with the 7 brand overall.

But I was shattered after that call as it goes to the core of our self worth. It’s been an average week.

I do deeply appreciate your messages and hope we can work something out and that our paths cross again down the bumpy road.

Kindest regards

Simon.

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