Mr Wood’s evidence could help to blow a hole in a key part of the corporate watchdog’s case: that it was Mr Mitchell and Mr Healy who deliberately withheld such information from the board, thus giving preference to the incumbent holder of the rights, Seven West Media.
His testimony on Monday also raised questions about how seriously the rival offers and the interest from Ten was, with Mr Wood agreeing Ten’s offer may have been a “mischievous” ploy to get Seven to increase its offer for the rights.
Mr Wood also told the court IMG’s second offer was deficient and not favourable to TA but he planned to use the offer to leverage more money out of Seven during its negotiations with the network.
Under cross examination by Mr Healy’s counsel, Neil Young, QC, Mr Wood was asked why he did not tell the board at a meeting in March about how the broadcast rights negotiations were going about bids from other groups, including potential interest from major networks Nine and Ten.
“So you were the one who had the knowledge of these discussions did you not?” Dr Young asked.
Mr Wood replied: “I suppose that’s correct”.
“If anyone was to mention figures, you were a person who was much better placed to mention figures were you not?” Dr Young asked.
“I guess so,” Mr Wood responded.
ASIC also faced some trouble in standing up its case that the board was not informed about an offer from US group IMG as part of the alleged push by Mr Mitchell and Mr Healy to ensure Seven won the rights to broadcast the Australian Open.
Dr Young told the court Tennis Australia board member Chris Tanner will give evidence that he specifically asked about the IMG offer at a board meeting before the rights were awarded to Seven.
Dr Young added that Mr Wood had said in his affidavit to the court for this case that IMG was not discussed in the meeting.
“That’s not accurate is it?” Dr Young asked. Mr Wood agreed that it was not accurate. “Sorry about that,” he added.
Dr Young continued: “You raised the IMG second offer, you discussed its terms, that provoked a conversation with the broad members … You told the the board members that Seven would put forward a better offer during the ENP (exclusive negotiating period).”
Mr Wood agreed but added: “Yes, under advice form Harold.”
Dr Young shot back: “You had made the decision”. Mr Wood replied: “Yep, okay.”
The case continues.
Sarah Danckert is a business reporter.