Alan Jones’ employer has confirmed it is holding off on talks with the controversial radio star amid reports Macquarie Media is looking cut him loose.
Jones’ current contract, worth a reported $4.5 million a year, expires at the end of next June and Fairfax media reported Sunday that Fairfax-owned Macquarie Media does not want to renew it.
Macquarie Media chairman Russell Tate was quoted by The Australian on Monday morning confirming it not held contract renewal talks with Jones, and will not finalise any agreement until the fate of the Nine Entertainment-Fairfax Media merger is decided.
“Anyone with any brains would not finalise a key talent contract like Alan Jones until the major shareholder [of Macquarie Media] is known,” Mr Tate was quoted as saying.
“If the merger proposal is successful, Macquarie Media’s controlling shareholder will change on December 7 from Fairfax to Nine,” he said.
“That will mean Nine’s board and management will have their own views on what they want to do, whether it be with on-air personalities, executives, directors or other staff of Macquarie. I imagine Nine will have views on everything from Alan Jones to how we do business.”
Peter FitzSimons, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, said Jones had become a liability for Macquarie after a year of high profile scandals and a costly legal loss.
Mr Tate dismissed that report as “rubbish,”maintaining Macquarie had a “professional relationship” with Jones.
Jones told The Australian: “The best comment I can make is no comment.”
Mr Tate said there was also the possibility that the 77-year-old Jones may decide he doesn’t want to renew his contract.
“What no one is taking into account is: ‘What does Alan want to do?’ That’s a factor too. Will he still want to get up at 2.30am?” Mr Tate said.
Jones was admitted to Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital earlier this month suffering from severe back spasms that started after his broadcast from the Melbourne Cup on November 6.
He missed his 2GB and 4BC breakfast show on November 12 and 13. At the time, 2GB said the host would be off air indefinitely.
The hospitalisation coincided with revelations that Macquarie had disciplined Jones over a series of incidents this year.
The Macquarie Media board was unhappy when the station was ordered to pay Queensland’s biggest defamation payout of $3.75 million to the Wagner family for Jones’s comments linking them to the 2011 Lockyer Valley floods.
There was also controversy over his on-air use of the racist phrase “n—r in the woodpile” in relation to the Liberal leadership chaos that led to the departure of Malcolm Turnbull.
Jones also issued a rare apology last month, saying he regretted comments directed at the Opera House’s chief executive Louise Herron over her opposition to displaying ads for the Everest horse race on the building’s sails.
Jones, who read late US president Ronald Reagan’s autobiography in his flower and fruit-filled hospital hospital room, denied his health scare was the result of stress.
“That’s just part of the ups and downs of life,” he said at the time.
Jones had surgery on his back in November 2016 and several subsequent neck operations, which forced him off air for four months.