For those in need of a quick refresher, Hrdlicka claimed in Saturday’s feature that she resigned as chief executive of The a2 Milk Company in December 2019 “because her husband had cancer”, adding: “I don’t think a2 handled that particularly well.”
Hrdlicka also attempted to discredit media reports that, as a2 CEO, she’d sent $19 million of work the way of her former firm, Bain & Company. “Those reports weren’t true”; indeed, “all that stuff about the $19 million was just BS”. And she kept digging: “The total spend on consulting and other things went to $19 million, but only a small proportion was Bain fees.”
The a2 Milk Company chairman David Hearn wrote to Hrdlicka on Monday asking her to immediately correct “material misstatements” she had made to Hooton. Hrdlicka didn’t, so on Tuesday – as promised – Hearn forwarded that letter to The Sydney Morning Herald.
One of Hrdlicka’s “falsehoods”, a2 contends, is that “You decided to leave your employment for personal family reasons. In truth, you were asked by the board to leave and agreed to do so. Personal reasons were raised by you after the board had communicated that position to you.”
The letter also spelled out that “during her tenure, more than $NZ33 million was spent on consultants, of which some 80 per cent (more than $NZ26 million) was spent on Bain”.
For what it’s worth, we also understand that Hrdlicka did not recuse herself from negotiating a2’s contract terms with Bain; indeed, she alone conducted those negotiations without any other member of her executive committee.
Hrdlicka was given notice that her comments “constitute a clear breach of the separation deed which both you and the company signed in good faith”.
This also constitutes an astonishing return serve, to employ the parlance of Hrdlicka’s preferred sport. We cannot call to mind a rebuke anything quite like it.
What a reprehensible perversion of narrative Hrdlicka attempted to perpetrate, and how gratifying its utter quashing now is.
Remember, she disparaged entirely fair and accurate media reporting as variously wrong (“BS”), tenuous (“there’s not a lot of substance to it”) and sexist (“I’m sure it gets lots of clicks to see a senior female who everybody’s bad-mouthing”). She cynically played the cancer card. And then her mate, Diane Grady, rolled in and diagnosed anyone who thinks Hrdlicka is abrasive with a severe case of confirmation bias!
Newsflash: Hrdlicka is a real piece of work – and yes, we’d say that about a bloke.
What on earth was she thinking?! That Good Weekend would reconstruct her reputation, expunging it entirely of unwanted abrasiveness, and that as she breezily invalidated established facts, we’d all sit quietly, ashamed of our part in unfairly maligning her?
Hrdlicka was sacked by her employer, she pocketed a $NZ1.8 million termination payment and the company had even – up to this point – said nothing as she falsely asserted she’d quit over “unforeseen changes in my personal circumstances [which] must take priority at this time”.
The sleeping dogs were lying. And then, out of clear air, she sideswipes that employer for not handling it well! Holy hell, most of us can only dream that one day an employer will treat us so badly.
Otherwise, Hrdlicka’s PR rehabilitation seems to be going quite well …
Contacted before this piece was first published, a spokesman for Hrdlicka declined to comment. Hrdlicka subsequently issued a statement rebutting a2’s correspondence:
“a2 has chosen to disclose confidential and private correspondence to the media having given me less than 24 hours’ notice to respond to them,” the statement read.
“The information in the letter contains false statements, is contextually incorrect and designed to inflict maximum damage on me personally. I wrote to Mr Hearn today seeking clarification and further information on a number of matters and have not yet received a reply.”