Certainly, influential figures have been agitating for him to take it on.
V’landys says you can stop right there.
“I’ve made that clear that I won’t do it,” he insisted when contacted by the Herald on Monday night. “I’m not interested in it and I’ve never been interested in doing it. I don’t think it’s appropriate: there needs to be a segregation between the board and management. I’ve always believed in proper corporate governance, so it would be hypocritical to do anything other than that.
“Once this crisis starts to ease, I want to take a step back. The only reason I am front and centre of things at the moment is because we’re in an emergency. As I said at my first press conference, if there’s an emergency, I will step forward. Well, this is a pretty bad emergency.”
The axe fell this morning at the offices of Racing NSW, where V’landys is chief executive in charge of another multi-billion-dollar sport.
Greenberg and V’landys were scheduled to meet at the NRL’s headquarters at Moore Park ahead of Tuesday’s commission meeting, but the chairman switched the meeting to a different venue at the last minute.
There was business at hand and that business was ending weeks of speculation about its chief executive.
While the official media release said Greenberg had “stood down” after the two men had “mutually agreed” it was the right course of action, the bald fact was Greenberg’s position had become untenable.
Last Friday, he was frozen out of negotiations with V’landys, Nine Entertainment chief executive Hugh Marks and Foxtel boss Patrick Delany as they thrashed out a new broadcast deal for a revamped season and beyond.
In the past week, Greenberg has tried to give an impression that he was still involved in the talks. In truth, he had been completely sidelined.
Nine — publishers of this masthead — refused to deal with him and V’landys had to step in for the simple reason that someone had to.
There’s being out of the loop and then there’s not being in the same suburb as the loop. Greenberg hasn’t been in the same suburb for some time.
Weeks ago, as speculation swirled about a restart date, he was privately predicting a July 1 recommencement was likely. A couple of hours later, V’landys was on Nine News talking about a potential May 21 or May 28 lift-off.
His demise has had a whiff of inevitability about it for months, dating back to late February when this column exposed the power play between the urbane chief executive and unfashionable but Machiavellian chairman.
While Greenberg was in the UK for the World Club Challenge, breaking bread with all-powerful Roosters chairman — and V’landys backer — Nick Politis, V’landys was on the other side of the world.
He was meeting with Fox Corp executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch, asking his permission to grant a licence to a second Brisbane team in competition to Murdoch’s beloved Broncos.
Tellingly, Abdo was with him and Greenberg was not. The pair then moved onto Silicon Valley to meet with Facebook, Amazon and Google about broadcast possibilities.
V’landys dismissed the story at the time, even though Greenberg’s two-year extension on his deal had not been struck despite both parties declaring late last year it was imminent.
The longer it dragged on, and the longer Greenberg remained unsigned, the more suspicion grew that Greenberg was a dead CEO walking.
Then the coronavirus chaos started, and Greenberg received a “stay of execution”, as many described it.
COVID-19 pressed pause on the inevitable but also provided V’landys with damning evidence about how poisonous Greenberg’s relationship with the clubs and players had become.
When Marks refused to deal with him, culminating in that scorching statement from Nine on April 9 slamming the “mismanagement of the code over many years”, it was the last of the last straws.
The size of Greenberg’s payout remains unclear. He had six months remaining on a $1.2 million contract, although he had recently agreed to a pay cut commensurate with the one taken by the players.
He did not immediately return calls or texts on Monday night. “You won’t get him,” said one NRL staffer. “He’s gone to ground.”
Greenberg’s legacy? He kept the game ticking along, but the game will always do that on its own accord. He was accused of being “woke”, because he supported same-sex marriage, but his real misgivings were a lack of trust among key stakeholders.
He was often described as being a “politician”. In the end, he was out-manoeuvred by the best politician in Australian sport.
V’landys told a Carbine Club function at the Magic Millions earlier this year that he would make a decision within a year between rugby league and racing. His contract with Racing NSW ends at the end of this year.
It’s problematic for him to become executive chairman. The constitution clearly doesn’t allow it.
It does allow “additional duties”, and former chairman John Grant took these on briefly when interim chief executive Shane Mattiske and then chief executive Dave Smith both vacated the hot seat.
As anyone in racing will tell you, V’landys likes to appoint people to positions that will work with him.
“I’ve got every confidence in Andrew Abdo,” V’landys said on Monday night. “He’s a smart operator, a smart individual.”
He offered nothing more than that, which is a shift in policy from League Central, which has been leaking all sorts of stories, ideas, theories and philosophies as it thunders towards a May 28 restart.
“I’ve got a plumber in,” the chairman quipped, before hanging up.
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.