Guess who came to lunch?

He is the incoming boss of Channel Ten – the struggling network that sacked Helen Kapalos – but that didn't stop Russel Howcroft crashing her lunch with CBS news executive, Bill Mondora.

Fairfax Media has obtained photos of Howcroft and Kapalos leaving the upmarket Bar Americain in New York a few hours ago.

Witnesses say Howcroft, who wore jeans to the meeting, asked Mondora and Kapalos for "tips on how to run the station" and advice on engaging viewers through social media.

He also reportedly asked Mondora, "Are you from Eyewitness News?" – the name of the bulletin broadcast by rival ABC. The witness says Mondora replied, "No no, we're CBS."

Howcroft, who attended with his 18-year-old daughter, is said to have apologised for swearing during the lunch.

On November 9, Channel Ten sacked Kapalos as part of a nationwide cost-cutting drive. More than 100 news staff were retrenched, including 20 reporters.

Sources say that there is no animosity between Howcroft and Kapalos because he was not involved in the decision to sack her, yet his presence at the lunch is unusual.

On Sunday, Fairfax Media reported rumours that Kapalos was being courted by networks around the world – including CBS. She is also speaking with Foxtel, at least one Australian network and Arabic broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Howcroft, a panellist on ABC1's The Gruen Transfer, is currently the CEO of advertising agency George Patterson Y&R. He takes over as Ten's executive general manager in February.

Fairfax Media has attempted to contact Howcroft but he did not immediately return calls.

Kapalos declined to comment.

It was reported recently that she had "unfinished business" in Melbourne and planned to return soon. On her blog, she wrote that Melbourne is "unquestionably my spiritual home".

Kapalos started her career with ABC Radio in Newcastle in 1994 before moving to SBS. She has also been a reporter for Channel Nine's A Current Affair and a newsreader on its now-defunct programs Nightline and Sunday.

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