By David Whitehouse, News24 Australia – Updated April 16, 2019 18:17:17 A man who was once the world’s leading online advertising salesman has apologised after a story published in the national print media accused him of “misusing” his position as a former executive at one of Australia’s largest companies to sell ads online.
Michael J. Lee, chief executive of the Australian Media Group, was accused of using his position to make a $1.7 million profit by offering to buy ads on his website.
The story, which ran in the Melbourne News, quoted Lee saying he had “never sold” advertising, but had “sold ads on behalf of the company”.
“If I had sold my advertising services I would be embarrassed,” Lee told the Herald Sun in an interview.
“The media should be ashamed of themselves.”
Lee, who has denied the allegations, said the article had been taken out of context and his statement was “not a statement of fact”.
Lee said the News24 story “ignored” what he said was a “very positive” experience in his new role, which included developing and managing online advertising.
But he said he had been “taken advantage of” by a former employee who was “disappointed” by the story and who he said “was trying to use my experience to take advantage of others”.
He said the former employee had offered to buy advertising on his site but “was not going to sell the company or any of my services”.
But Lee said the employee had not been able to obtain the advertising because he was not allowed to advertise on the website.
“I had no idea the advertising was available and was only offered to my clients,” Lee said.
Lee also said he was “disturbed” by News24’s “negative and defamatory” story.
He told the ABC the article did not reflect what he had done or what he stood for.
Media spokesperson for the Australian Advertising Standards Authority (AASA), Kate Roberts, told the Sunday Mail he was disappointed with Lee’s apology and said he “may have been misled”.
“As you would expect, AASA is aware of the article and is aware that it has been published and may have been misconstrued in a way which may have impacted the trust of the advertiser and the industry in general,” Roberts said.
“The article was clearly intended to draw attention to the fact that Mr Lee had been engaged in advertising on the site, which he had not and is not permitted to do.”
The ABC understands Lee’s resignation was announced to the media at an undisclosed location.
News24’s print edition was the first to run the story.
Lee was the head of the advertising and marketing group at the Australian Entertainment Group (AEG) when he was given the job of CEO in April 2020.
He left the AEG last December and is now managing director at The Advertiser Group, a company which he founded with former AEG executive Mark D. Evans.
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