Ryan Tubridy’s agent Noel Kelly said that his client’s contract had to be “paid in full” when the prospect of a fee cut was first raised in 2019, new documents show.
A dossier of documents sent to the Public Accounts Committee shows the prospect of cutting fees was first raised with Tubridy’s team in October 2019, and that Noel Kelly told RTÉ that “Ryan is not prepared to contemplate any reduction in relation to agreed payments sums that arise during the extant contract”.
Eventually, a revised contract was signed the following year, with a lower fee, but undisclosed payments totalling €225,000 were made under a so-called “tripartite agreement” with Mr Tubridy, RTÉ and Renault Ireland.
Mr Kelly said in the first email that “from an optics perspective we are happy to meet and discuss the various options surrounding the payments on the current contract but it will need to be paid in full.”
RTÉ eventually picked up the tab for all the payments made under the tripartite agreement, and also retrospectively adjusted the presenter’s published earnings downwards for the period 2017-2019 by subtracting a €120,000 payment which he forewent from the sums he was paid. A report by consultancy firm Grant Thornton stated that Mr Tubridy had no involvement in the adjustments made by RTÉ in 2020″ to the published earnings for 2017-2019.
The document also show RTÉ is refusing to release details of severance and exit packages to top executives involved in the Tubridy pay controversy, as well as further details of former director general Dee Forbes’ contract.
The broadcaster shot down requests from the high-powered Dáil committee for any details on an exit package given to former commercial director Geraldine O’Leary, who left Montrose during the summer - saying it was precluded from doing so “because of legal and contractual obligations”.
Ms O’Leary was involved in making payments of €150,000 to Mr Tubridy through the controversial barter account, which were labelled as consultancy fees, telling an Oireachtas committee in July that she did so because she was told to do it.
Similarly, RTÉ said it was not in a position to comment on arrangements for its former chief financial officer Breda O’Keeffe, who was involved in negotiating Mr Tubridy’s contract in 2020, and left the station shortly afterwards under a voluntary exit package.
Documents given to the PAC show that Ms O’Keeffe was involved in discussing Mr Tubridy’s contract with his agent, Noel Kelly, before she left the station.
It also refused to give a response to a query on whether anyone received a similar exit package to Ms O’Keeffe. The PAC also sought a copy of Dee Forbe’s contract, which RTÉ declined, arguing that the relevant details of her terms of employment had already been provided.
During an appearance before the Oireachtas media committee, Ms O’Keeffe said she had availed of a voluntary exit package in 2020, which was subsequently raised by RTÉ trade unions who called for clarification about the terms of the exit deal. The broadcaster has now appointed legal firm McCann Fitzgerald to investigate two voluntary exit schemes, with director general Kevin Bakhurst seeking the report by the end of this month.
The documents given to the PAC show in detail the negotiations over the early termination of a contract Mr Tubridy signed in 2015 and its replacement with another deal. This ultimately saw him paid €225,000 in undisclosed side payments, the cost of which was borne either directly or indirectly by RTÉ. They show RTÉ initially proposed to cut the presenter’s core pay from €495,000 to €420,000, before agreeing after resistance from Mr Kelly to a fee of €440,000.
The documents also show how a proposal that RTÉ underwrite payments of €75,000 which were to be paid by Renault to Mr Tubridy emerged as a stumbling block during negotiations. While Ms O’Keeffe told Mr Kelly in February 2020 that RTÉ would “provide you with a side letter to underwrite this fee for the duration of the contract”, it was the subject of ongoing wrangling between the sides for months, with Mr Kelly saying in April of that year that it was “fundamental to the whole of these negotiations”.
At the end of April, Mr Tubridy’s solicitor wrote that the underwriting was a “critical point of agreement (which) has informed all other aspects of the agreement”, and asked that RTÉ sign off on a draft letter detailing the underwriting agreement which it had sent in March.
RTÉ and Mr Kelly have said that the underwriting agreement was ultimately sealed during a call between the agent and Ms Forbes on May 7th, but the broadcaster has refused to release a note of the call.
Meanwhile, Mr Tubridy launched former chief medical officer Tony Holohan’s memoir at a private event at the Museum of Literature in Stephen’s Green, Dublin, on Thursday evening. Speaking to the audience at the launch of We Need To Talk, Mr Tubridy said it was his first time behind a microphone in quite some time.
In a post on Instagram on Thursday, Mr Tubridy disclosed that he will travel to Iceland in November to interview crime writer Ragnar Jonasson and the country’s prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir about a book they have co-authored, as well as the Irish crime writer Liz Nugent.