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A statement from RTÉ and an external audit show that RTÉ did not sign an agreement pertaining to the arrangement. Alamy Stock Photo
RTÉ's Tri-Partite Agreement

RTÉ, Ryan and Renault: The broadcaster's deal to keep Tubs on side

How an unsigned contract, a verbal agreement and a “loyalty bonus” lead to the secret €75,000 payments.

DETAILS OF RYAN Tubridy’s contract with RTÉ show that while the broadcaster had publicly stated that it intended to reduce the salaries of its top ten earners by 15%, it continued to underwrite and guarantee a €75,000 deal in Tubridy’s new five-year contract.

The controversy surrounding undisclosed payments to Tubridy has engulfed the national broadcaster, dominated the headlines and resulted in RTÉ representatives having to come before the Oireachtas to explain their actions. 

Board members and senior executives faced over four hours of questioning at the Oireachtas Media Committee yesterday.

Some of those questions related to the deal RTÉ struck to pay Tubridy €75,000 per year as part of a commercial arrangement with Renault.

However, an external audit conducted by Grant Thornton forensic accountant Paul Jacobs, which was published on Tuesday, shows that RTÉ never actually signed an agreement pertaining to this arrangement.

Additionally, the timeline, provided by the broadcaster on Tuesday, shows that the arrangements and payments between RTÉ, Ryan Tubridy’s agent NK Management and Renault took place before any formal contract was made or signed.

No formal, written agreement to underwrite and guarantee the €75,000 deal was ever made and was allegedly based off a “verbal agreement” made by former Director General Dee Forbes alone.

In a statement from RTÉ’s Interim Deputy Director-General Adrian Lynch on Tuesday, he outlined that negotiations to review Tubridy’s contract took place between October and December 2019 with his agent, Noel Kelly.

According to Lynch’s statement, on 19 December 2019, RTÉ’s then-Chief Financial Officer Breda O’Keeffe proposed that they would “offset” an “exit payment” in Tubridy’s contract to his agent.

While the new deal detailed a 15% pay-cut, O’Keeffe oversaw the deal that proposed Tubridy could avail of a “possible additional commercial agreement” to the value of €75,000 per contract year. 

This later became the Renault deal.

‘Loyalty bonus’

Speaking before the Oireachtas media committee yesterday, the current Chief Financial Officer of RTÉ, Richard Collins, said that Tubridy’s contract had a €120,000 “loyalty bonus” connected to it in 2020.

“Ryan Tubridy was due a loyalty bonus at the end of his contract of €120,000. That was never paid, it was never accrued for in the accounts. But for an unexplained reason, that €120,000 was credited against his earnings. That’s under investigation at the moment, Collins said. 

He said that he didn’t sign off on the misreporting of Tubridy’s salary, and that the loyalty bonus was negotiated and agreed before he became Chief Financial Officer in January 2020. 

The treatment of the exit payment – of which there is little publicly reported detail – is now the subject of another Grant Thornton review for the radio host’s earnings during the 2017-2019 period, according to the statement.

rte-commercial-director-geraldine-oleary-left-interim-deputy-director-general-adrian-lynch-centre-and-chief-financial-officer-richard-collins-right-arriving-at-leinster-house-dublin-to-appea RTE Commercial Director Geraldine O'Leary (L), Interim Deputy Director General Adrian Lynch (C) and Chief Financial Officer Richard Collins (R) arriving at Leinster House yesterday. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

From January to March, RTÉ said further discussions on terms and conditions continued and a draft contract was sent to NK Management on 10 March.

In his response on 20 March, Noel Kelly included a draft ‘side letter’ stating that RTÉ will guarantee and underwrite the proposed €75,000 yearly commercial arrangement. 

RTÉ’s former Director General Dee Forbes, who allegedly was the only member of the organisation who was fully aware of all the facts connected to Tubridy’s agreement, “verbally agreed” to underwrite the deal on 7 May 2020, according to the Grant Thornton review and RTÉ’s statement.

Adrian Lynch reiterated this point before the Oireachtas committee today.

The two €75,000 payments were paid by RTÉ’s barter account, and were described on invoices as “consultancy fees”. 

When asked why this was never questioned, RTÉ’s head of commercial Geraldine O’Leary said she could not answer “because I cannot remember the precise detail”.

She said the invoices were raised by her office. Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan asked whether the invoices pertaining to Tubridy’s payment which had the words “consultancy fees” would not have “raised flags”, O’Leary said Tubridy’s name was not on the invoices.

“But you knew the invoices pertained to the payment of Mr Tubridy,” O’Sullivan said.

“Yes, because I was aware that they were related to the €75,000 per annum,” O’Leary responded.

O’Sullivan said it was “seriously concerning” that there was such a “lack of oversight” within O’Leary’s office. 

“Clearly there wasn’t the checks and balances in place to see that the term consultancy fees on an invoice that pertained to the payment of Mr Tubridy wasn’t flagged at that time. I think that beggars belief to be honest.”

‘No way’ RTÉ should sign the deal

According to the Grant Thornton audit, a “Tri-Partite Agreement” was made between Renault, RTÉ and NK Management (on behalf of Ryan Tubridy) for October 2020 to 31 December 2021.

No exact start date was provided by the audit or the statement from Lynch to this agreement, only “October 2020″.

There was also “no mention of a monetary amount for the provision of Requirements or Services” under the tri-partite agreement, but it did include the provision of three public appearances by Tubridy.

For these events, RTÉ also agreed to front the bill and the broadcaster paid, via the UK barter account, for the costs of hosting the commercial sponsor’s events to the tune of €30,586, last year. This ended up being valued at €47,477 in the barter account. 

Talks took place between the three parties for this agreement during 27 July and 22 October 2020, according to the RTÉ statement.

However, Renault were approached 24 July and were invoiced €75,000 by NK Management for “bespoke partnership” between Renault and Tubridy to include personal appearances.

The Grant Thornton audit suggests that Renault agreed to the tri-partite agreement on 29 September 2020, even though they had already paid and been credited the €75,000 fee by RTÉ on 31 July 2020.

Renault did not sign the agreement until 15 April 2021 as per page 10, 2.7 (d) (i) of the Grant Thornton Audit.

According to the the timeline provided by RTÉ on Tuesday, NK Management got a guarantee from RTÉ on the agreement on 7 May 2020.

It then invoiced Renault in July 2020, received the tri-partite Agreement in October 2020 and “furnished” the deal between 29 March and 22 April 2021.

Agreement never signed

But, NK Management didn’t actually sign the tri-partite Agreement until 21 April 2023 – just over a month after the initial internal audit from RTÉ, as per page 10, 2.7 (d) (ii) of the Grant Thornton audit.

RTÉ didn’t sign the tri-partite agreement at all, as per page 10, 2.7 (d) (iii) of the Grant Thornton audit. However, they still underwrote, paid and credited the payments months prior.

During the committee meeting today, Fine Gael TD Ciarán Cannon asked why the tri-partite agreement was not signed by RTÉ.

Lynch said he presumed that the agreement would include the provision of the €75,000 but “it didn’t”.

“In terms of the sequencing of events, in 2020, obviously we had Covid, and the events didn’t happen then until 2022,” Lynch said.

“So everything was getting pushed around and this agreement then was between NK Management and RTÉ,” the acting director general added.

screenshot-297-630x332 RTÉ representatives at the Oireachtas Media Committee. Oireachtas TV Oireachtas TV

Commercial Director Geraldine O’Leary said “the main reason” the agreement was drafted in writing was solely to provide clarity to Renault over what they needed from Tubridy and “what the events would be”.

However, Renault received the deal on a wholly cost-neutral basis and did not have to pay for the commercial partnership or the events.

Tuesday’s statement from RTÉ said: “The ‘Tri-Partite Agreement’ between the commercial partner, the Agent and RTÉ was arranged by the Commercial Director at the direction of the Director General.”

However, O’Leary claimed during the committee meeting today that she was “not involved” in “the construction” of this deal and was purely involved under the direction of Forbes.

From the statements and audit, it appears that the deal was done before the agreement was drafted.

It was then never signed off by RTÉ, who paid for it arising from Forbes’ verbal agreement. 

Lynch told the media committee yesterday that there was “no way” RTÉ should’ve signed anything to underwrite this deal and that there was no written agreement from the broadcaster at all that they would do so.

However, because of the verbal agreement that RTÉ would underwrite the deal for the five-year contract, they were obliged to pay the €75,000.

Lynch told the committee he only found about the verbal agreement “literally this week at like 3am on a Monday” after going to look for the physical agreement underwriting it, “and I didn’t find one”. 

Renault, according to the audit, only agreed to join the previously mentioned “bespoke partnership” if it was cost neutral to them. RTÉ provided Renault with a credit note on 31 July 2020.

In the Grant Thornton review, forensic accountant Paul Jacobs said that he was informed by Dee Forbes that there was an ‘end of contract payment’ due to Tubridy in 2020.

Forbes said that Tubridy’s first contract – which included the exit payment – was negotiated and in place before she took over the job in 2016. RTÉ was keen to make a cost saving in respect of this “end of contract payment”, she told the review.

She also said something similar in her own statement this week: “We were keen to make a cost saving for RTÉ in respect of a contractual payment which was due to be paid.”

It is not known how much this payment would amount to.

RTÉ did not respond to a request for comment from The Journal by time of publication. 

Additional reporting by Jane Moore

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