MasterChef trio in position for Netflix deal
A WEEK after being fined for underpaying his restaurant staff almost $8 million, George Calombaris is one of three judges that have negotiated themselves out of MasterChef - reportedly after demanding a 40 per cent pay rise and a slice of international profits.
Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan are now believed to be eyeing a multimillion-dollar deal with Netflix or Amazon Prime.
It comes after the trio formed their own production company, GGM Pty Ltd, to sell themselves to Ten as a package deal.
It had made contract talks "difficult," Ten's chief executive Paul Anderson said, denying the network had sought to dump Calombaris after the wages scandal.
The three judges are understood to have wanted more time off to pursue other projects, while almost doubling their TV earnings estimated currently about $400,000 to $600,000 per judge each season.
Mehigan on Tuesday night said the contract dispute "was never about the money and never will be about the money" but rather having "more free time to explore our own creativity".
"The opportunity to work with Matt and George has been a blessing and something I cherish," he said.
"Working together will continue to be the most important thing for us … the three musketeers."
Calombaris added "the dates just didn't align" for a new deal, while Preston said he was leaving "with a heavy heart" because "we were really keen to continue but we were unable to agree to all terms for the new contract".
The announcement of their departure from the reality cooking show after 11 years overshadowed Tuesday night's crowning of its youngest winner, 23-year-old Larissa Takchi from Sydney.
In a prerecorded final, Ms Takchi beat Simon Toohey and Tessa Boersma to the $250,000 prize.
She credited helping her mother Jeannette run Wild Pear cafe in Dural with training her to win.
"It's a super busy cafe and being the front of house manager I had to deal with a lot of situations where it was quick thinking, under pressure, go-go-go," she said.
There had been calls for Ten to sack Calombaris after he was fined $200,000 by the Fair Work Ombudsman last week for underpaying staff of his MaDE Establishment almost $8 million.
He had also pleaded guilty to assault in 2017 after he was filmed shoving a 19-year-old at an A-League match.
But Mr Anderson on Monday night said all three judges were leaving the show after failed contract negotiations.
While thanking the judges for their work, he said their departure was "a real opportunity" to "refresh" - and that the network was committed to "another 10 years of MasterChef".
He said Ten would look to sign some of the show's favourites, such as Curtis Stone, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay: "There's a long list of people keen to be part of the franchise."