Four independent directors of the largest philanthropic journalism institute in the country have abruptly resigned after the billionaire founder overhauled the way it operates and the allocation of funding.
Australian billionaire and philanthropist Judith Neilson, who founded the Judith Neilson Institute in 2018, plans to take charge of her creation as it “changes direction”, a decision that appears to contradict original plans to non-profit organization as independent.
Neilson’s move, announced Tuesday in an email conversation with the Institute’s directors — former NSW chief James Spigelman, Paul Kelly, Bridget Fair and Kate Torney — prompted them to resign en masse, according to people known. were with the conversation. The Institute could not be reached for comment.
Media sources, who asked for anonymity to speak freely about the matter, said Neilson’s new vision for the organization is not yet final, but her involvement raises questions about its independence.
Documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission last Wednesday confirm the impeachment of the four independent directors, including Spigelman, who served as chairman.
There are three more directors on the board: secretary Simon Freeman (the chief financial officer of Neilson’s family office) and Edward Jewell-Tait.
The change casts doubt on the position of Executive Director Mark Ryan, who also sits on the board and remains with the company for the time being. The independent directors of the board supported Ryan.
Neilson made headlines when she pledged $100 million to found the institute in 2018. It was established as an independent and impartial body to encourage quality journalism through education, trade shows and by organizing events on current issues. The institute pledged to work with university journalism schools and news organizations to improve coverage of the region and discuss key policy issues facing Australia.