'He manages the toilet rolls': TV billionaire accused of bullying

The billionaire owner of WIN television, Bruce Gordon, called a senior executive a "prick", a "lump of wood" and someone who "manages the toilet rolls and the weeds", according to court documents that have revealed an alleged culture of bullying and harassment at the regional media company.

The former general manager, Rodney Hockey, is suing WIN corporation for alleged deceptive conduct, claiming he was misled into accepting a new role at the network in 2011 rather than taking a redundancy payout, which would have been more lucrative.

In an affidavit tendered to the Federal Court of Australia this week, Mr Hockey alleged the culture at WIN was rife with bullying and harassment from Mr Gordon and that his son, executive chairman Andrew Gordon, was distracted by a failing relationship with a woman.

Mr Hockey, who worked his way up from being a tape operator in 1985 to network general manager in 2007, said before taking a telephone call from Bruce Gordon in July 2010, a colleague warned him the owner had been drinking.

"Bruce said to me the words to the following effect: 'You're a f---ing prick. You slandered me with your mate Don Clode and [former WIN managing director] David Butorac. I don't want you working for this company. You don't deserve to be here. If I was 20 years younger I would walk down there and knock you out," Mr Hockey's affidavit alleges.

Another executive, John Smithers, told Mr Hockey that Bruce Gordon had been talking about him and said, "Hockey manages the toilet rolls and the weeds", the affidavit alleged.

An email from another WIN executive, Chris Rickey, included in the affidavit, detailed a November 2011 conversation with Bruce Gordon, who he said yelled in his face and called him a "f---ing idiot" and described Mr Hockey as a "lump of wood".

In March 2011, when general manager roles were being disbanded, Mr Hockey raised his concerns about Bruce Gordon's "intimidation" with Andrew Gordon and how it would affect any new role he took on.

Mr Hockey said Andrew Gordon told him: "We agree that if you accept one of the new roles and the intimidation starts again, you can just opt out and have your contract paid in full."

At the time when he was negotiating details of his contract later that year, Mr Hockey alleged that Andrew Gordon was distracted by a failing relationship with a woman named Skye McKewan.

Mr Hockey said he was told Andrew Gordon had private investigators following Ms McKewan and had attached a GPS device to her car.

In Andrew Gordon's affidavit before the court, he declined to respond to allegations that "appear to me to be irrelevant to the proceedings and some designed to embarrass me, my father and/or WIN".

Mr Gordon said he advised Mr Hockey of the changing general manager roles and advised him he could apply for one of the jobs or be made redundant, but recommended he go for the network director of production role.

When Mr Hockey said he wasn't getting a "fair go" from Bruce Gordon, Andrew Gordon again urged him to apply for that role as his "best opportunity to deliver results and make a real success at WIN".

Justice Alan Robertson has reserved his judgment.

The story 'He manages the toilet rolls': TV billionaire accused of bullying first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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