Clarke jets out of Judith Neilson's JNI
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Clarke jets out of Judith Neilson's JNI

Well this is awkward. Like all media types, we are grateful to Judith Neilson, the billionaire philanthropist who has tipped a spare $100 million into creating the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

Judith Neilson and Prue Clark.

Judith Neilson and Prue Clark.Credit:Illustration: John Shakespeare

Since it was founded in late 2018, JNI has supported more than 30 publications, 120 independent journalists and more than 550 stories (though not CBD).

So it pains us to report that the well regarded Prue Clarke, who helped establish the institute, has abruptly departed after only 18 months as senior executive officer. Not exactly a long haul stint.

This leaves the running of the JNI to Mark Ryan, Paul Keating's former senior adviser and consultant to the Lowy family, while the board includes The Australian's Paul Kelly, former NSW Chief Justice and ABC chairman Jim Spigelman and Kate Torney, chief executive of the State Library of Victoria and former director of ABC News. No doubt they will be concerned at the paucity of actual journalists on its staff.

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As for Clarke, she is returning to New Narratives, a non-profit newsroom centred on Africa she founded a decade ago. "I wish the team at JNI all the best, it's an important opportunity for Australian media. And I'm really excited about going back to building this non-profit newsroom into a power in media in low and middle-income countries," she said.

For its part, JNI declined to say who would replace Clarke, but said it planned to hire more staff in the coming months. "Planning for the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Sydney in November 2021, as well as other major Institute projects, is continuing unchanged."

Unchanged, except for the presence of Clarke, who relocated with her family from New York for the gig, and led the bid to win the conference for Sydney.

EXCESS BAGGAGE

It seems that Virgin's chief executive to-be Jayne Hrdlicka has been hedging her bets on whether she'd ever take the chief executive's position from Paul Scurrah after the airline's takeover by Bain Capital.

After all, the former Jetstar boss took her most recent airline role in July, on the board of Hawaiian Airlines.

She is now expected to resign from its board after less than three months to avoid a conflict between managing one airline, and sitting on the board of a competitor. And given Hawaiian Airlines is a public company listed on the American Stock Exchange, market disclosure rules require that notice to be served sooner rather than later.

A former Bain consultant herself, Hrdlicka has had a hands-on role in their plans for Virgin since it entered the airline's bidding war in March. Even then, Hrdlicka's role in Bain's bid caused a stir because she was still on gardening leave from her most recent former role as A2 Milk's chief executive. No matter, Bain said. They let the executive work for free until her A2 leave - and non-compete payments - expired on June 30.

Of course, we'd love to know what sort of kicker she got on July 1. As for a sign-on bonus she'll receive when she takes the chief executive's role in November, a Virgin spokesman on Thursday declined to say.

AVOID THE LIFTS

The emphatic Court of Appeal judgment should have been an end to the saga of the pet ban at the luxury Horizon complex but the drama rolls on. Why are the wealthy so unkind to each other?

Opera singer Jo Cooper has finally won her five-year fight for the right to keep her 14-year-old miniature schnauzer Angus, at Horizon, despite a bylaw at the Harry Seidler designed tower banning pets.

Residents at the complex, where one-bedders sell for more than $1 million, are outraged.

And some are particularly venomous towards Cooper. While some of her neighbours are congratulatory in the lobby, others, to her face, have called her a "f**kin bitch". She is overwhelmed.

The sting in the tail for many residents is that the Court of Appeal also ruled that the owners corporation at the 43-storey block should be liable for the costs of all the hearings.

One resident said there was a push among residents to take the matter to the High Court.

Not a surprise, considering some residents have been told the owner's corporation has spent about $500,000 on legal fees, while Cooper's fees have been estimated north of $200,000. One of her supporters is Geoff Selig, former president of the NSW Liberal Party. Other residents include PR queen Maria Farmer and heiress Francesca Packer-Barham, and interior designer Greg Natale.

The Horizon has 28 days to lodge an appeal with the High Court and the owners corporation is holding an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday. Stormy doesn't begin to describe it.

IN AND OUT

The fall-out for AMP Capital over its hamfisted decision to install - and then demote - infrastructure boss Boe Pahari as the investment giant's chief executive continues. The Funds Executive Association Limited (FEAL for short) has dumped AMP Capital as the sponsor of its "Fund Executive of the Year award", a scholarship it hands out to talented superannuation industry executives.

The award recognises executives who are leadership role models - which appears not to be AMP's strongest suit given its executive team chose to install Pahari to the top job, despite a sexual harassment investigation.

"In 2020 FEAL will fund the award from our own reserves," a statement said. FEAL will monitor AMP's "cultural transformation including actions on inclusion and diversity" before making a call on 2021.

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