Australian producer Hal McElroy's family-owned company Eden Productions has commenced legal proceedings against Southern Star Entertainment and the Southern Star Group, claiming it is owed more than $6.4m (A$10.5m). But McElroy's former employer has moved quickly to say it is Eden which owes money to Southern Star.
The issue has been smouldering since McElroy left Southern Star in December 1997, upset that his contribution had not been acknowledged when the company floated. But this is the first time that both sides have issued public statements.
A spokesperson for McElroy said the money related to a combination of royalties, commissions and undistributed profits from the television series Blue Heelers and Water Rats, which were devised and initially produced by McElroy. He said auditors from Eden Productions had detected anomalies in Southern Star's accounts and there was enough evidence to lodge a claim.
Southern Star said McElroy's statement to the media "appears to be in response to Southern Star's long-standing attempts to recover monies owed to Southern Star by Eden" and "action to recover that money last week". Southern Star wouldn't comment on the nature of this debt.
The Southern Star Group is one of Australia's biggest production and distribution companies and has extensive interests in the UK. It announced today (March 8) to the Australian Stock Exchange that it has successfully negotiated for the UK's Channel 5 to continue to acquire the series Home And Away for the life of the programme.