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Simon Reeve's email begging for a bigger payout after Sunrise boning

Simon Reeve wrote a rambling 960-word email to Seven boss Kerry Stokes begging for a bigger payout when he was dumped from Sunrise.

Reeve, who worked on-and-off for Channel Seven for the best part of four decades, is suing the company for up to $1 million 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. 

Reeve was given his marching orders on June 25 as Seven cut costs amid the coronavirus pandemic, and offered five weeks pay.

Simon Reeve, who hosted It's Academic and Million Dollar Minute, crossed his fingers hoping a moaning email to bosses would get him a bigger payout when he was dumped from Sunrise

Simon Reeve, who hosted It’s Academic and Million Dollar Minute, crossed his fingers hoping a moaning email to bosses would get him a bigger payout when he was dumped from Sunrise

On July 3, the shocked presenter wrote a long email to Mr Stokes and chief operations officer Bruce McWilliam pleading for more.

The email obtained by Daily Mail Australia began by thanking the pair and outlining Reeve’s long career at the network, beginning in Perth 41 years ago.

‘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,’ he wrote.

‘Every single day I’ve cared deeply about the job I do and the product to which I contribute.’

But suddenly what first appeared to be a heartfelt letter of thanks to his bosses, morphed into a moan about how he was hard done by. 

Seven and Reeve had an arrangement were he was paid $250,000 a year for six hours of work a week presenting sport on Weekend Sunrise.

He lived on his two-acre Gold Coast property most of the time and was flown to Sydney each week by Seven and put up in a flash hotel.

The email complained he had been ‘very patient’ with Seven over three months in limbo since the NSW-Queensland border closure scuttled this arrangement.

Simon Reeve (pictured in the Sunrise studio with Angela Cox and Sally Bowrey) worked for Channel Seven for 40 years when he was dumped earlier this year - and is now suing in the Federal Court

Simon Reeve (pictured in the Sunrise studio with Angela Cox and Sally Bowrey) worked for Channel Seven for 40 years when he was dumped earlier this year – and is now suing in the Federal Court

Instead he was ‘devastated’ to be told on the phone by Sunrise producer Michael Pell that his services were no longer required. 

‘When I asked… if there was an exit payment in mind, he suggested five weeks. I have to say that was a huge shock,’ he wrote.

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

‘I would have walked into the sunset with no regrets if… I’d been offered fair exit terms, for what I feel has been an unfailingly wholehearted effort.’

Reeve said at 58 he was far from retirement and had ‘too much to give and to do’ and given the economy his family faced an uncertain future. 

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

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

Reeve's rambling email was sent to Seven's billionaire chairman Kerry Stokes (pictured) begging him to intervene and increase his payout

Reeve’s rambling email was sent to Seven’s billionaire chairman Kerry Stokes (pictured) begging him to intervene and increase his payout

Reeve then made a personal appeal to Mr Stokes and Mr McWilliam to intervene and secure him a much larger payout.

‘I felt reaching out honestly to the two 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,’ he wrote.

‘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 ecosystem.’ 

Court documents filed to support his claim include a reply to his email from Mr Stokes referring to Reeve as having ‘been made redundant’.

He claims this and a reply from McMillan saying he was ‘part of the DNA’ of Seven showed he was ‘treated as an employee of Seven by other officers and employees of Seven’.

However, a senior Seven source told Daily Mail Australia that Reeve selectively edited Mr Stokes’ email and removed the context.

‘Kerry told Simon he wasn’t aware he’d been made redundant. He couldn’t have been aware as Simon wasn’t made redundant. His contract expired,’ they said.

‘Simon was the one who told Kerry he’d been made redundant… Kerry took his word for it.’

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

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 source said Reeve had been contracted through his company, Simon Reeve Productions, for three decades – at his own urging.

They claimed Reeve wanted to be an independent contractor via his company in an elaborate scheme to save on tax.

‘Simon Reeve Productions has been in business for a long time as an Independent Producer which also provided his personal services as well as trying to get various film projects up, with varying degrees of success,’ the source said.

‘That’s not something employees can do which is presumably why he did it through Simon Reeve Productions.’

Reeve claims Seven breached his ‘ongoing contract’ and misrepresented his employment status by claiming he was an independent contractor.

He wants the contract between SRP and Seven declared in breach of the Fair Work Act ‘in that they falsely represented that Reeve was employed as independent contractor’.

However, the senior source said Seven’s contractor arrangement were in recent years audited to make sure they complied with the law. 

Those that did not had to become employees and and have PAYE tax deducted.  

The source also claimed Seven paid Reeve about $10,000 for a documentary about rhinos the network was yet to receive. 

Simon Reeve’s rambling email

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.

Reeve (above with Larry Emdur and Monique Wright) has been on Sunrise for about a decade but hasn't appeared on screen since March

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

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.

Other 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.’

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.  

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.

Court documents allege he was told to ‘cease performing services’ on Weekend Sunrise on March 16 by producer Matt McGrane. 

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 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

Reeve frequently posts photos in Instagram of himself on the property – working in the yard or relaxing in the tranquil surrounds

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

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

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. 

Reeve’s lawyer John Laxton told the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday that his client was seeking ‘in excess of $500,000’ and up to $1 million.

Seven will defend the case and is expected to argue Reeve had ‘changed his tune’ on being a contractor after leaving. 

Reeve is yet to respond to messages from Daily Mail Australia and Seven declined to comment. 

‘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, far right, was a long term contributor to Weekend Sunrise but is understood to be living on the Gold Coast

Reeve, far right, was a long term contributor to Weekend Sunrise but is understood to be living on the Gold Coast

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.        

The lawsuit sets the stage for what could be the highest-profile court stoush Seven has faced since the network and former chief executive Tim Worner’s executive assistant Amber Harrison sued one another in 2017. 

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