David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Paul Henry back for breakfast - in Aussie

Paul Henry couldn't refuse Lachlan Murdoch's deal. Photo / Doug Sherring
Paul Henry couldn't refuse Lachlan Murdoch's deal. Photo / Doug Sherring

Paul Henry has pulled off a massive broadcasting coup - he's been personally poached by Rupert Murdoch's heir to become a star on Australian television.

"Hi Paul, it's Lachlan here," was how Lachlan Murdoch made the first approach two weeks ago.

Henry puzzled for a minute then realised he was speaking with the head of Network Ten in Australia, which boasts an audience of 12 million viewers.

The controversial broadcaster is now heading for stardom in Australia as the main anchor on Network 10's morning show. He is believed to be earning at least $1.5m.

"It is an amazing opportunity. I hadn't considered anything like this. I don't think anything like this has ever actually happened to a broadcaster in New Zealand, not in my life anyway."

Henry wouldn't discuss figures.

"It's a substantial offer. It's not the sort of offer where someone counter-offers.

It's the sort of offer that when people know what it is they say 'good for you'."

Amazingly, the incident that got him fired from TVNZ was not even mentioned. "They didn't talk about it. I can only imagine they knew all about it."

The courtship happened at breakneck speed.

"I just had that moment to think Lachlan who? But with a surname like that you know instantly who you are talking to."

Having broadcasting royalty on the phone caught Henry's attention instantly. "It's like getting a call from the Queen."

He said he met Murdoch for the first time on Labour Monday and the pair went out for lunch.

"He spent most of his time talking about the different things he had seen [of Henry] on YouTube. And then talking about road trips in the States."

To be out for lunch with Murdoch, talking about YouTube clips, was bizarre, Henry admitted. "You do have to shake yourself a bit."

Murdoch and MediaWorks boss Sussan Turner hammered out a deal in recent days that allowed Henry to take the opportunity of a lifetime while keeping the spirit of his contract with his current employer.

Henry continues his Radio Live 3pm-6pm show until March 2012. He would then become become the station's Australia correspondent, filing daily reports.

Henry will be on New Zealand screens with his recently announced TV3 show at 7pm on Sundays, which would be broadcast from Sydney.

"It will be a very New Zealand programme," he said.

He would also appear on the TV3 comedy Would I Lie To You?

Henry said he hoped Kiwis wished him well for the job in Australia and understood how grateful he was to be still be on TV3 and RadioLive.

"I hope that's what the majority of New Zealanders think. I think, in their hearts, a lot of people have stood by me. I'm so glad I'm just not cutting my ties."

Henry will go to join TVNZ's news boss Anthony Flannery, who had just been hired as the channel's head of news. Flannery had been a champion of Henry's at TVNZ.

Henry said the job was not a snub to TVNZ bosses, who fired him last year.

"If I needed any vindication it came around the book [What Was I Thinking: A Memoir]. It sold so well, the book tour - for the first time in my career I was meeting hundreds and hundreds of viewers."

He said feedback had been tremendous. "Meeting all those people - it made me think I have actually touched these people's lives."

Henry said he would live in Sydney. "Obviously I will always be a New Zealander. But this is a full-time commitment."

MediaWorks group managing director Sussan Turner said she had a "great working relationship" with Murdoch and both had worked hard to find a way the deal could happen. "There's no way I would have stood in the way of this wonderful opportunity for Paul. He is an amazing talent and we will be sorry to see him go."

Broadcaster Paul Holmes said: "It is a wonderful achievement and I wish Paul well."

- Herald on Sunday

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