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Mark Ryan exits embattled journalism institute

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The head of Judith Neilson’s embattled journalism institute has officially left the organisation after months of negotiations over an exit package.

Mark Ryan, a former adviser to Paul Keating and long-time adviser to the Lowy family, led the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas since its inception, and was working with lawyers to negotiate his exit after its billionaire philanthropist founder requested his removal from the organisation.

Billionaire Judith Neilson and the executive director of her journalism institute, Mark Ryan, have parted ways.Credit:James Brickwood/Judith Neilson Institute

Simon Freeman, chief executive of Judith Neilson’s family office, confirmed Ryan had left the institute. Sources close to the institute said the final package was approved at a board meeting a week ago.

Ryan’s exit comes more than two months after the Institute’s four independent directors received a letter from Neilson outlining plans to remove him from his position, and appoint her daughter Beau Neilson and lawyer Daniel Appleby as directors. Ryan was approached for comment.

Neilson’s letter also backpedalled on long-term plans for a coveted international prize for ideas, which was about to be announced and was initially her idea.

The letter led to the departure of its independent directors – former NSW Justice Jim Spigelman, Free TV chief executive Bridget Fair, former Victoria State Library CEO and current boss of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation Kate Torney, and The Australian’s editor-at-large Paul Kelly – who were concerned about the independence of the organisation.

Two international advisers, high-profile former US journalist Steve Coll and Lowy Institute fellow Richard McGregor, have since severed ties with the institute over concerns about its future and leadership. The pair held positions on the institute’s 12-person international advisory council, which is no longer accessible to read about on its website.

The advisers were not paid, but provided advice on its vision and activities. Freeman declined to comment on whether the council would continue to exist.

Meanwhile, the $1.5 million global investigative journalism conference, which was expected to run in Australia in November 2023 in partnership with the institute, has decided to relocate.

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