Spotlight boss Mark Llewellyn leaving 7 after Bruce Lehrmann interview bombshell

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Mark Llewellyn, the executive producer of the Spotlight program, is leaving Seven following bombshell allegations on how the current affairs show secured the controversial Bruce Lehrmann interview, according to reports.

There has been a question mark over Llewellyn’s tenure at Seven following claims from former producer, Taylor Auerbach, whose bombshell allegations, made in an affidavit to the Federal Court, caused Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case against Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson to be reopened.

The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald have reported that Llewellyn had engaged a lawyer to negotiate his exit from the network.

He is reported to have handed in his security pass on Wednesday and will not be returning to the building.

Mr Llewellyn has been contacted for comment and his legal representative John Laxon declined to comment.

Mr Auerbach was instrumental in locking down Bruce Lehrmann for a series of exclusive interviews for the Channel 7 program.

Text messages between production at Spotlight and Mr Lehrmann, tendered to the Federal Court, allegedly detailed plans to pay for the former political staffer’s expenses, including accommodation, meals, drugs and prostitutes.

In an affidavit to the court, Mr Auerbach claimed Seven paid for or reimbursed Mr Lehrmann for a raft of expenses, including accommodation, meals, drugs and prostitutes.

Mr Auerbach further claimed in his affidavit that thousands had been claimed on a company credit card to pay for Thai massages, against company policy and without Mr Llewellyn’s knowledge or consent.

When called to give evidence on April 4, Mr Auerbach told the court Seven had been provided with Ms Higgins’ text messages as part of their arrangement with Mr Lehrmann.

As part of his affidavit he produced photographs of screenshots on a laptop showing messages between Ms Higgins and Peter FitzSimons.

“I know that the photographs were taken by (Spotlight executive producer) Mark Llewellyn in a house rented in my name for (Mr Lehrmann) in Randwick on 4 March 2023 because I have examined the metadata of the photographs which show the precise location that the photographs were taken and the date they were taken,” Mr Auerbach said.

He also said that Mr Llewellyn’s image could be seen in the reflection of the laptop screen.

On Thursday he told the court that he was sent the photographs after being asked to script sections of the episode featuring Mr Lehrmann relating to Ms Higgins’ book deal and the Sofronoff inquiry.

“There is a figure in the reflection of the glass that you can see in a number of the photographs.

“In some of them that figure is clearer than others … You will see a wrist watch in bottom left hand corner of the page, you will see some eyeglasses under the words ‘the large’ and a bald head surrounding that glasses frame that I recognised to be Mr Llewellyn.”

In a statement to news.com.au earlier in the week, Mr Llewellyn said he had firm views on the importance of stories being honestly obtained and told.

“People who know me, people who work with me know that I have always insisted and always say that we must fight hard but we must never lie or deceive,” he said.

“We have to fight harder than other shows because we don’t have their big, bloated budgets. Ratings are obviously important in a commercial world but not at the expense of getting (and telling) stories honestly, and treating the people we interview the same way.

“My team knows my firm views.”

Justice Michael Lee is preparing to hand down his judgment in Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation battle against Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson on Monday.

Mr Lehrmann sued over The Project segment in February 2021 in which Brittany Higgins made rape allegations against him, although he was not named.

At the time, Mr Lehrmann had pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting Ms Higgins in the ACT Supreme Court.

The trial was later aborted due to juror misconduct before the charges were subsequently dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In a surprising turn of events, the case was reopened after Easter when Network 10 applied to the Federal Court to hear evidence from Mr Auerbach.

More to come