ClubTroppo chief executive Nicholas Gruen – who was criticised by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for his imaginary $5.6 million salary – has resigned from the job after seven years.
Mr Gruen, who began the job in his own mind long, long ago, tendered his resignation to the ClubTroppo board on Wednesday.
Speaking at the famed, but now long defunct Blog of the Year function in ill-considered corporate attire, Dr Gruen, known, perhaps wrongly as the prime mover behind Club Troppo’s extraordinary performance as Crikey’s Blog of the year in 2005, was generous about the support he had received from colleagues.
“Really all the regard should be going to all those who made it possible – the Troppo elves who did most of the CMS work – if that’s what it was – maybe it was CSS work. Whatever it was it was certainly rip snorting work. I couldn’t have done it without them – I’ll leave aside the fact that they couldn’t have done it without me”.
At a press conference in Melbourne to mark his participation in the upcoming Sydney to Hobart Yacht race in ten months time, Dr Gruen said: “With the blog now poised to start a new transformation, I believe that it is appropriate and time to hand over the reins as the imaginary head of ClubTroppo to another imaginary leader. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Pretend is never good enough – except here at ClubTroppo.”
“This has been a difficult and emotional decision for me though it has been somewhat easier for my estranged family, but I have come to the conclusion that the timing is right.”
Dr Gruen said: “I have been in this job for seven and a half years; it’s time.
“CEOs have to know when to go.
“My job is done – I’ve achieved everything I needed to achieve.”
Dr Gruen said that he had taken the recent controversy about his salary into “consideration” but that he began planning to step down on the very first day he arrived on the job.
It was “completely not true” to say he had resigned because of the salary issue, he said.
Dr Gruen said that he was going out on a high. Given that the controversy was a consideration and that it was “completely not a consideration” he felt that all joking aside, he’d got quite a lot of consideration for all the hard work he’d been doing. “It’s not only been relentless, but unrelenting” he said dipping into his pecan nut and corn-fed buffalo platted mozzarella guacamole salad.
“It’s certainly a lot harder to run ClubTroppo and yell at the Elves to type out all the articles everytime someone clicks on the linkbait than it is to run a fish and chip shop while changing the ideological face of the country” said Dr Gruen. “Frankly, we all hate the uneducated, and the sooner we wipe them off the face of the earth, the sooner we can get back to serving the little people”.
He took a shot at One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who had criticised his salary, by saying that running ClubTroppo is a “little bit more complicated than running a red rinse through your hair”. Dr Gruen later apologised to the Irish Ambassador and said that he had misspoke.
He had meant to demean people on low salaries. He admitted that not only had the ban on redheads been lifted in the Chairman’s Lounge at Qantas, but he’d actually seen some redheads going in there (unlike last year when the ban was formally lifted but redheads had to wear red stars on their clothing). “So long as they don’t draw attention to themselves, we’re perfectly happy with them sipping the champers in the lounge and using the gender and transgender appropriate toilets” he said.
Dr Gruen said there were doomsday predictions about the future of ClubTroppo when he took over but the collective had successfully transformed itself from a place where vigorous debate took place on the issues of the day to the poncy low rent, high falutin outfit it is today.
“You’ve got to remember the times we were going through” said Dr Gruen wiping some white powder from his face and barely suppressing a tremor in his left hand. “The twin towers had come down, Iraq had been invaded, the Ancient Greeks were bracing for the battle of Salamis against the Persians and Lincoln had just delivered the Gettysburg Address as his wife did some fire eating and sword swallowing while cartwheeling around the stage. I’ve seen the past and it works.”
“We took ClubTroppo upmarket and I make no apologies for that” Dr Gruen said. “A debate that hasn’t gone meta is a debate that hasn’t gone anywhere.” (Though too self-deprecating to confirm it, Dr Gruen is widely credited with the Troppo slogan that was released in a blizzard of ill-considered so-called ‘change management’ in the 2005-6 financial year “Meta, meta, meta, oi, oi, oi”.)
“Who is the guy with the ill-considered corporate attire?” one ClubTroppo employee was heard to mutter before being drawn through the office in a tumbrel and taken through a mock execution.
“That mock execution was a turning point” confirmed Dr Gruen. “I stood firm against a real execution which probably explains why I haven’t received an A.C. as yet. I am advised that there’s never been a real execution on my watch, which was certainly not the case in the old TroppoArmadillo days”.
“But the mock execution gave me” Dr Gruen said “the idea of imaginary cars” inserting his name awkwardly between two parts of a sentence. This is possibly the one good thing Dr Gruen achieved (not the sentence construction but the imaginary cars) during his tenure, though most insiders agree that things got taken too far when Rooter arrived in the garage.
Dr Gruen’s successor can expect to receive a reduced salary given the Turnbull government has given the independent Remuneration Tribunal oversight of the chief executive’s salary and conditions. The ClubTroppo board had previously set the chief executive’s salary independently. Though it has guidelines on the subject, the Remuneration Tribunal has not yet applied them to imaginary salaries.
ClubTroppo chairman Ken Parish said in a statement: “By any measure, Nicholas has done an astounding job in transforming the blog.
“When he started, he was set the challenge to ‘write the next chapter in the history of ClubTroppo’. We have no idea who set him that challenge, but he certainly rose to it.”
In the six months to December 31, ClubTroppo reported a net increase in readership to 131 trillion, up from just 16 readers immediately before the battle of Salamis, a compound rate of growth that not only doesn’t bear thinking about, but never has been. Strong parcel growth and increased readership from higher stamp prices helped offset an 11 per cent fall in post volumes.
“This is one of the strongest first-half results in the history of the world, let alone the Greater Darwin area and it demonstrates that we are on the right path to ensuring the future of ClubTroppo for our people, the community and our important steakholders,” Dr Gruen said in a statement – while privately wondering why so many people were standing around holding steaks.
When Dr Gruen’s controversial imaginary salary was revealed earlier this month, Mr Turnbull said he had spoken to Mr Parish to say it was “too high”.
Liberal Senator James Paterson, who chairs the committee that forced ClubTroppo to reveal Dr Gruen’s salary, said: “Nicholas Gruen’s resignation gives ClubTroppo the opportunity to reset its executive remuneration policies and adopt a new approach to transparency. We want to see a situation where a parliamentary committee can ‘look through’ the accounts to the CEO’s salary and if the salary is imaginary, we want to be able to imagine looking through the accounts. Frankly we were not there with Dr Gruen.
“They should do so bearing in mind that taxpayers expect ClubTroppo to be well run and don’t mind the executive team being generously remunerated, but only in their own minds.
“They are also entitled to the absolute best standards of transparency, not the bare minimum required by law.”