Former Stuff owner Nine Entertainment had decided it would close the media outlet, publisher of New Zealand’s biggest news website, down by May 31 last year, media can now report.
And Nine had planned to use a “failing firm argument” to convince the Commerce Commission to let it merge with NZ Herald-owner NZME.
These two facts were kept secret for six months by Justice Sarah Katz, the High Court judge who in May last year decided that she could not force the Nine and NZME to continue merger talks.
Her decision was originally released with redactions which have been lifted today.
After all that High Court drama, Nine eventually sold Stuff to its chief executive Sinead Boucher for a $1 just six days before Nine's self-imposed deadline.
Under its new ownership Stuff sought continued suppression of the two pieces of information, arguing it was too commercially sensitive to be released. It said it needed six-to-12 months of “clear air,” without the facts of the deal being known, so it could deliver its new strategy.
Time heals all
“Nine’s historical views of Stuff’s prospects will inevitability carry less weight within the passage of time,” Justice Katz wrote, when ruling six months' suppression as enough.
This was despite NZME’s opposition to the suppression and BusinessDesk’s efforts to have the information released.
Today Justice Katz released the judgment in full and her reasons for redacting the two facts.
Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher had said in evidence the redacted information did not reflect the views of Stuff’s management and “wrongly suggests that Stuff is not a viable business.”
Noting that Stuff was originally a third party which did not put the damaging information before the court, Justice Katz said the secrets should remain untold because it was more than “general embarrassment” and the adverse consequences were “significant.”
She noted that Boucher’s evidence was not challenged.
The full version of the judgment was meant to be released Jan. 3 but not made public until today because the registry was not open.