Bombers end bizarre CEO saga with settlement

Essendon has reached a settlement with former CEO Andrew Thorburn following his tumultuous 24-hour stay and subsequent exit from the helm in October.

The club confirmed the settlement in a statement on Tuesday afternoon, issuing an apology to Thorburn and donating an undisclosed figure to an ethics institute.

Thorburn was announced as the club’s successor to Xavier Campbell on its end-of-season awards night, before resigning a day later when the club gave him a choice between staying on and leaving his role as chairman of City on a Hill church.

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The church came under fire due to a number of sermons published on its website, with one likening abortion to a concentration camp.

Thorburn was forced to pick between the two roles by Essendon with the club of the view that his role at the church did not align with the club’s values.

The former NAB chief called Essendon’s ultimatum “trouble” at the time, and while he lawyered up last month, he did not pursue any legal proceedings with Essendon, instead entering a mediation.

“A critical element of this resolution is to enable a wider community conversation on the importance of freedom of conscience, religion and belief and how to have respectful dialogue between people with different views and perspectives,” a joint statement between Essendon and Thorburn read on Tuesday .

“All people should be respected and welcomed in workplaces and community organisations. No one should have to choose between their faith or sexuality, and their employment.

“Further, everyone should be able to openly express their personal position, in a respectful way, without fear and still feel that they belong. Genuine diversity and inclusion also includes people of faith.

“The club acknowledges that the events of October [Thorburn’s appointment and departure] should have been handled better and apologises for the impact it had on Mr Thorburn, his family and others.

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“Both parties consider that elements of the public commentary at the time were extreme and wrong and counter-productive to the respectful community dialogue they agree is critical.

“Mr Thorburn remains welcome at the club. The club reiterates that he is a person of integrity who treats others, whether at work or elsewhere, with dignity and respect. He has a strong track record of leadership including with respect to diversity and inclusion of LGBTIQ and other minority groups.

“As part of a commitment to genuine diversity and inclusion, and to show leadership in this area, the club has agreed to make a donation to an ethics institute. The institute will prepare an independent paper on how sporting organizations can build inclusive communities recognizing freedoms including those relating to race, religion and sexuality.”

Thorburn said he was “pleased” to have his exit from Essendon resolved in an additional statement on his personal LinkedIn page.

“I would like to thank EFC and wish them well as they seek to build a strong and united club,” the statement read.

“The statement is important – not just because it enables us to resolve the differences between us constructively, but because it affirms some key points of principle about genuine diversity and inclusion and respectful engagement.”

Thorburn announced that he would be stepping away from “all my formal responsibilities” in February 2023 to take a year off.

According to The Age, Essendon did not want the drama to roll on into its 2023 season, with club bosses of the belief that the team needs “a clean slate”.

Thorburn has been replaced by respected former West Coast staffer Craig Vozzo as the new CEO, with the appointment following the arrival of new senior coach Brad Scott earlier this year.

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