Hawthorn chief executive resigns from struggling Hawks

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Hawthorn chief executive Justin Reeves has resigned from his position at the helm of the Hawks.

Reeves confirmed his exit on Wednesday at a meeting with the Hawthorn board.

Hawthorn chief executive Justin Reeves has resigned.Credit: Getty Images

Reeves has been under enormous pressure after the Hawthorn racism investigation. He also faced fierce pressure from the factional issues at Hawthorn’s board level that led to a change of president.

Reeves spent just over five years as CEO of the Hawks, presiding over the tumult of the handover from Alastair Clarkson to Sam Mitchell and then the fallout from a cultural safety review that resulted in an AFL investigation into allegations of historical mistreatment of First Nations players. Reeves was not at the Hawks during the period covered by the allegations.

On Reeves’ watch, Hawthorn also undertook an uncompromising rebuild of the playing list, in which stars Tom Mitchell and Jaeger O’Meara were offloaded, and the club fielded the youngest teams in the AFL regularly.

Reeves had been signed to a five-year contract in 2021 when Jeff Kennett, who had been the driver of Reeves’ appointment as CEO, was still president. But that contract contained termination provisions and protections for the club if they parted company earlier.

Reeves had a close relationship with Kennett and other board members and found himself at odds with Clarkson in 2020 and 2021, eventually resulting in Clarkson’s exit and payout. He strongly backed Mitchell in the succession arrangement, which was brought forward by 12 months, resulting in Clarkson receiving a payout of $900,000 for the final year of his contract, giving the four-time premiership coach a 12-month break.

Reeves had been retained by the board this year, despite a change of leadership when Andy Gowers, a 1991 premiership player, replaced Kennett following an election last December when ex-deputy premier James Merlino also joined the board via the members’ vote.

The cultural safety review, completed by Phil Egan, placed further pressure on the CEO when the allegations against Clarkson and his former lieutenants Chris Fagan and Jason Burt surfaced and prompted what became a drawn out AFL inquiry that took an enormous toll on all parties. Clarkson, Fagan and Burt have categorically denied the allegations made against them and have consistently said they look forward to clearing their names.

Clarkson’s decision to step away from coaching North Melbourne was in large part due to mental health issues that followed the investigation.

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