Independent Newspapers has denied it struck a ‘secret deal’ with Auction Alliance as alleged by investigative magazine Noseweek.
The July edition of Noseweek contains an article headlined: “Independent News bosses struck secret deal with Auction Alliance”.
Independent's Western Cape editor in chief Chris Whitfield and Independent Gauteng editorial director Moegsien Williams said in a joint statement that Noseweek's article was “based on fundamentally flawed view of events which took place when Auction Alliance sought to interdict the company's newspapers from publishing an article containing serious allegations against the auction house”.
The Noseweek article suggested that Independent Newspapers management received a kickback amounting to “R1 million plus” from Auction Alliance, which sold two buildings in Cape Town for the company.
The article also claimed that certain information had emerged about Auction Alliance's attorneys which Independent Newspapers was aware of.
The 'secret deal' of the headline was an alleged agreement that both parties would suppress compromising information about each other.
Noseweek claimed this suppression of information was arranged by both parties agreeing that the court papers be sealed and that the terms of the settlement on the interdict, which Auction Alliance withdrew, be confidential.
“This is a grossly misleading depiction of events. No such deal was struck or even contemplated,” Whitfield and Williams said.
“It is untrue that the court papers were sealed. An out-of-court settlement was reached which allowed Independent Newspapers to proceed with a damaging expose of Auction Alliance,” they added.
“To suggest that any person in management of Independent Newspapers received money is untrue and reckless. This transaction was fully and properly accounted for in the company's books as part of the final sale proceeds,” Whitfield and Williams said.
“With reference to information about the attorneys of Auction Alliance, copies of these papers were attached to the answering affidavits filed on behalf of Independent Newspapers. These allegations remain in the public domain, for anyone to read or publish,” they added.
“It is telling that none of the Independent Newspapers executives named in the article - nor any others - were contacted for comment, information, corroboration or response by Noseweek,” Whitfield and Williams said.
“The articles which various Independent Newspapers' titles published subsequent to Auction Alliance's attempt to gag them have cost the company many millions of rand in advertising revenue which it would have received from the auction house. It is also telling that Noseweek did not feel it necessary to reflect this,” they added.
Independent Newspapers' attorney Jacques Louw communicated the facts to the editor of Noseweek Martin Welz.
“The company is now considering its options,” Whitfield and Williams said. - Staff reporter