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Royal Automobile Club of Australia sued

9/4/20233 min read

"The Royal Automobile Club of Australia graces Macquarie Street in Sydney's CBD with its stately, heritage-listed presence, but beneath the elegant façade lies a bitter battle that has captured attention for months. This feud revolves around the club's financial woes and the controversial leadership of its current president, Stephen Hathway, who also happens to be a liquidator. Hathway dismisses his critics as disgruntled former board members, while dissenting voices, including ex-board members, raise eyebrows at Hathway's rather unconventional approach to governance.

In this high-society dispute, legal threats are par for the course. However, it's the ousted former CEO, David Fischer, who has taken it to the next level by filing an unfair dismissal lawsuit. Fischer, renowned for his involvement in establishing the Indian branch of the prestigious Soho House, joined the club in March 2022. Curiously, he was not only granted a new contract and a bonus payment by the board on October 20, but that very day also marked the annual general meeting where Hathway was re-elected as president. Fischer's tenure at the club lasted just two months before he was terminated.

Fischer's lawsuit paints a grim picture of a rapidly deteriorating relationship, alleging unreasonable demands delivered amid Hathway's alleged intoxicated and belligerent state. Fischer claims Hathway made unilateral attempts to revoke his bonus and subjected him to confrontational, aggressive, and highly critical evaluations, particularly regarding his handling of on-site vandalism and interactions with fellow board members.

Hathway vehemently denies these allegations, stating that the club couldn't sustain Fischer's $250,000 annual salary and lambasting the previous board's decision to reward him on the same day as the AGM. He further questions Fischer's qualifications and suitability for the role, leaving no room for camaraderie.

Currently, the club is under the leadership of Sandra Calabretta, overseeing a board where only three members were elected at the last AGM. Six elected directors, including senior EY partner Morgan Kelly, barrister Robert Armitage, and former president Megan Lavender, have stepped down in the past 10 months.

Adding to the club's woes, Liquor & Gaming NSW recently issued a warning after identifying non-compliance with the Registered Clubs Act. Hathway, in a recent statement, insists that the issue has been resolved. The intrigue continues at this prestigious institution."

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. What is the Royal Automobile Club of Australia (RAC)?

The Royal Automobile Club of Australia, often referred to as RAC, is a prestigious and long-standing private club located on Macquarie Street in Sydney's Central Business District (CBD). It serves as a social and recreational organization for its members.

2. Why is the Royal Automobile Club of Australia being sued?

The RAC is facing a lawsuit filed by its former CEO, David Fischer, for unfair dismissal. The lawsuit alleges various issues, including financial disagreements and alleged inappropriate behavior by the club's president, Stephen Hathway.

3. Who is David Fischer, and what was his role at the RAC?

David Fischer is the former CEO of the RAC. He was responsible for managing the club's operations and affairs. However, his employment was terminated within just two months of his appointment.

4. What are the specific allegations in David Fischer's lawsuit against the RAC?

Fischer's lawsuit includes allegations of unreasonable demands made by Stephen Hathway, who was allegedly intoxicated and abusive during their interactions. Fischer also claims unilateral attempts to revoke his bonus and unjustified confrontational evaluations.

5. What is Stephen Hathway's response to the lawsuit?

Stephen Hathway, the president of the RAC, denies the allegations in the lawsuit and maintains that Fischer's termination was due to the club's inability to afford his salary.

6. How has this legal dispute impacted the leadership and governance of the RAC?

The legal dispute has resulted in a leadership transition at the RAC. Sandra Calabretta now oversees the club as a result of Fischer's departure, and several elected directors have resigned in the past year, impacting the composition of the club's board.

7. Are there any regulatory issues involved in this dispute?

Yes, the RAC recently received a warning from Liquor & Gaming NSW for non-compliance with the Registered Clubs Act, adding to the challenges faced by the club.

8. Is there any resolution in sight for this lawsuit?

As of the latest information available, Stephen Hathway has expressed the intention to contest the lawsuit, and the legal proceedings are ongoing. The final resolution will depend on the outcome of the legal process.

9. How can I get more updates on this legal dispute involving the RAC?

You can stay updated on this case by following news reports, official statements from the RAC, and legal updates in Sydney or Australia in general. Legal proceedings can take time, so news outlets may provide periodic updates on the case.