Hugh Marks quits: Nine CEO the third TV boss to depart in 15 months

Hugh Marks

• Paparazzi hound Marks’ new partner, one reason why the TV boss quit?

The decision Hugh Marks made to stand down doesn’t make a lot of sense. Events seemed to spiral out of control at the end of last week as rumours about his private life brought forward his desire to leave the company he has led successfully for the past five years.

The only comment so far that goes part way to explaining his departure is Mark’s revelation in one of the company’s newspapers was that he was planning to depart soon, but until Friday he wasn’t too sure when that would be.

Nine Entertainment is now without a leader as it becomes the third of the three commercial networks where there has been change at the top in the past 15 months.

The first to go was Seven’s Tim Worner in mid-2019 after poor ratings did what a sex scandal couldn’t do. Few people thought Worner would survive as long as he did in the role after revelations of a relationship with an employee that spiralled out of control became a tabloid sensation at the end of 2016. Seven West Media executive chairman Kerry Stokes stood by Worner through all that, but cut him loose over poor financial performance impacted the business if 2019.

In early 2020 Network 10 chief executive Paul Anderson was let go despite a promotion not long before. His departure followed changes at the top at parent company ViacomCBS. Anderson should be on the list of candidates to replace Hugh Marks.

The most puzzling of the three departures though is Marks’. Just what he did to turn the Nine Entertainment board against him remains mystery. Marks started a relationship with an employee, but that employee left the company so as not to create a conflict of interest for the CEO. Too late.

There was rampant speculation on Saturday that there was further to be revealed about Marks and his private life in the weekend papers which, so the conspiracy theory goes, is why he discussed his new love interest with Andrew Hornery in The Sydney Morning Herald’s Private Sydney column on Saturday.

There were no further revelations in The Sunday Telegraph about Hugh Marks which some thought had been sitting on a bombshell that was set to explode on Sunday. It didn’t happen.

One thing that Marks would be wanting to avoid is his new partner being stalked by the paparazzi. There was footage on offer from a Sydney agency to media outlets on the weekend that featured his partner being hounded in Kings Cross after emerging from a local supermarket. If ever there was a life changing moment that might have been it.

It would be unlikely for Marks to stay on for the transition to a new leader as sound as that may seem. It could be an awkward few months for the executive team.

There could be an appointment of an interim CEO, Nick Falloon has already been mentioned as a possibility, as the search is made for a replacement.

Already it is being assumed it could be down to Stan’s Mike Sneesby or Nine Publishing’s Chris Janz. However, the company would need to through the search well beyond internal candidates to include possible other leaders from Australia and even maybe internationally.

Those candidates could include 10’s Paul Anderson and Foxtel’s Amanda Laing (a former Nine MD).

Depending on who ultimately gets the job at Nine, watch for changes as the new CEO arrives. People who are part of team Marks could move on, voluntarily or otherwise, ahead of a new team being appointed.

Marks, Worner and Anderson all left their businesses with considerable achievements. Worner had to fill the shoes of a TV legend in David Leckie and managed to lead Seven through a decade of ratings leadership. Anderson juggled 10 through very turbulent times when many though it would go out of business. Marks perhaps has the greatest achievement, even if he did inherit Stan and a TV line-up that started the year with Married At First Sight and ended it with The Block. Marks managed to merge with Fairfax Media without mountains of debt and in doing so created the biggest media business in the country which seems set for continued success.

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