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Oz satcaster saga gets still stranger

SYDNEY — The excruciating saga of ailing Aussie satcaster Australis Media’s Galaxy TV took a bizarre turn Friday when former chief exec Sean O’Halloran threatened to provide regulators with allegedly damaging details of the company’s business affairs, while claiming to still work for the satcaster.

The extraordinary events will likely further dent Galaxy’s already battered credibility and undermine attempts to rescue the satcaster, which is laden with $630 million of debut and teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

The industry’s shock was quite an achievement, given the down-and-dirty nature of Oz feevee and Galaxy’s history of three years of almost continual crises.

Docs to be delivered

A statement released on behalf of O’Halloran said he would lodge documents with the Australian Stock Exchange, Australian Securities Commission and U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission “prior to Christmas” relating to “dealings by Australis with its U.S. bondholders and its U.S. studios as well as certain internal financial transactions of the company.”

The statement also partly explains the mysterious departure of O’Halloran from the troubled satcaster. In October, O’Halloran said he would segue to a plum post at leading TV producer Southern Star once Galaxy’s proposed merger with Rupert Murdoch’s Foxtel cabler was complete. After the merger collapsed, Star agreed to wait until April, while Galaxy attempted financial salvation.

Then, the statement alleges, Galaxy bondholders in New York, U.S. studio representatives and Galaxy’s Oz staff asked O’Halloran to remain for a “period of up to four years” to lead a potentially refinanced satcaster. This account lends some credence to rumors Galaxy’s studio suppliers (Sony, Paramount, Fox and Universal) were eager to save Galaxy to keep its rich programming deals alive.

But then at a Nov. 29 public meeting, Galaxy announced O’Halloran’s immediate exit from the satcaster.

An O’Halloran spokeswoman told local media the exec was still in the U.S. and had not officially been notified of his termination and “as far as he knows is still employed by Australis.”

Breakdown rumored

The spokeswoman also addressed persistent rumors the exec had a nervous breakdown while trying to save Galaxy, saying: “He had worked for six weeks straight across Los Angeles, New York, Sydney and London and he was admitted to hospital suffering from exhaustion.”

Galaxy said O’Halloran’s “serious allegations” had yet to be “particularized and supported by any evidence” and “accordingly, the allegations remain unsubstantiated and it would be inappropriate at this stage to make any further comment.”

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