Mediaweek Roundup: Hugh Marks, Eddie McGuire, Stan Sport + more

Nine

Greg Growden, Chris Kenny, Landline, Kate Stevenson, The Hemsworths, and Optus

Departure of Hugh Marks

Nine board faces questions over $2m bonus for Marks

Nine Entertainment’s board faces serious questions in the wake of Hugh Marks’s resignation after asking investors to back a $2m long-term bonus for the departing chief executive – two days before he resigned after his workplace relationship became public, reports The Australian’s Cliona O’Dowd.

Marks will walk away from a potential $5m payday, approved at the company’s annual general meeting on Thursday. Marks resigned on Saturday after a special meeting of the Nine board discussed his relationship with a former colleague who reported directly to him.

His departure was not mentioned at the Thursday meeting, but came a day after he confirmed to the Nine-published Sydney Morning Herald that he was in a relationship with the company’s former commercial managing director Alexi Baker, who departed in October.

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Culture clash as Nine board splits over Hugh Marks’s sex scandal

The board of Nine Entertainment has split over chief executive Hugh Marks’s sexual relationship with a subordinate, leaving the media giant reeling in an apparent clash of cultures between the merged company’s broadcast and print divisions, reports The Australian’s James Madden and Nick Tabakoff.

In an interview with The Australian – in which at one point he had to pause because he broke down in tears – Marks revealed he had made the choice to depart the company on his own terms after the board phone hook-up, which was held without him.

“I’m just one cog of the business, and to take the pressure off the business, I moved on,” he said.

“I communicated with the chairman, and he communicated with the board.

“The gossip about me was getting so out of control – 99.5 per cent of which was untrue – and I thought to myself: ‘What’s the right thing to do for Nine and its people?’ ”

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Nine boss says relationship gossip pushed weekend resignation

Outgoing Nine chief executive Hugh Marks has admitted he did not tell the board about his new relationship with former senior executive Alexi Baker until last week, but insists that any conflicts of interest have been handled appropriately, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

The 54-year old said he is leaving to give a successor a clear path to take the well-performing business forward after more than five-years at the helm, but conceded the intense gossip about his personal life pushed him to move now.

Marks said the board was made aware of his new relationship with former director of commercial Alexi Baker “through the course of the week”.

Baker announced her resignation on October 1.

Without putting a timeline on it, Marks said the relationship “is still fairly new”, noting a difference between seeing someone, having a conversation and starting a relationship.

The Nine boss said he’d been thinking about leaving for some time.

“I don’t think as CEOs of media businesses you should just hang on forever. You’re a steward of an amazing business. Nine is Nine, it’s not me, it’s a mix of all the people that work here, and I’ve had an opportunity to lead it,” Marks said.

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‘Was someone out to get me? I don’t know’: Nine boss Hugh Marks

Outgoing Nine Entertainment Co chief executive Hugh Marks has conceded his relationship with former subordinate Alexi Baker worried some of the media company’s directors, and he described recent board meetings as occasionally lacking “calmness”.

Marks told The Herald and Age he decided a year ago to relinquish the top job at the free-to-air television, streaming, publishing and digital company once all staff moved into its new headquarters in North Sydney at the end of 2020 but had not “made any decisions about exactly when”, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

“When it became clear this relationship was going to become a subject of ridiculous gossip and so much pressure was going to come on the people in the business I just said to myself the right thing to do at this point is to take that pressure off the business and its people,” Marks said.

Marks has booked leave for two weeks at the end of November but is adamant he can work through the transition period despite the scrutiny.

“My job is become less of running the day to day of the business and more of working with more key executives to help and guide and make sure that we make the right big decisions,” he says.

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The AFR: Personal focus took its toll on outgoing Nine CEO

Hugh Marks‘ time as Nine chief executive will be remembered for many things, but there will be two major events at the top of the list, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

First, the $4 billion merger with Fairfax Media in 2018, transforming the Australian media landscape with a deal to create the first, and still only, company with print, publishing, free-to-air TV, streaming, radio and real estate classifieds.

The second, like it or not, will be his resignation on Saturday afternoon after revealing a consensual relationship with a former direct report Alexi Baker.

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The main contenders for the Nine Entertainment Co throne

Media industry insiders believe it is a two-horse race to succeed Hugh Marks as Nine chief executive, with Stan boss Mike Sneesby and Chris Janz, the company’s head of publishing and digital, the leading contenders. But others are still expected to but their hands up for what is one of the biggest jobs in Australian media, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

An executive search firm is likely to be appointed to identify potential candidates, but Marks said he is confident there are a number of people inside the business who could take on the job.

“There’s all sorts of opportunities…to develop people and that’s what I’ve certainly tried to do quite aggressively certainly over the last few years, so there are a number of people who can do the job,” Marks said. “[The decision] will be up to the board. It won’t be my decision, obviously. I want all of my children to be equally successful.”

The paper also lists Lizzie Young, Michael Stephenson and Tom Malone as internal candidates.

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News Brands

Peter FitzSimons: Vale Greg Growden, you will be long remembered

Greg Growden, the iconic rugby journalist, whose work appeared in these pages across an extraordinary six decades, from the late 1970s when he joined the paper as a cadet, through to this decade – with a long stint at ESPN thrown in – passed away Saturday night at Royal Prince Alfred’s Lifehouse facility after a long struggle with cancer, writes The Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter FitzSimons.

He was just 60 years old.

Growden worked as a sports journalist across many fields, but it was for rugby that he will be most remembered, one of only two journalists in the world to have covered every Rugby World Cup from 1987. Others came and went. Greg was always there – in the dressing room, by the field, on road trips, scouting out stories.

The Herald sends its deepest condolences to his family: his wife Elizabeth, and his children Anna and Angus. Greg made his mark, and will be long remembered.

Vale Greg Growden. Great family man, rugby writer, respected author. Cherished friend.

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See also: ‘He made his mark’: Greats pay tribute to ‘Growdy’ by Iain Payten.

Chris Kenny hails the live cross as TV Zooms ahead

For someone who admits that “he’s not great with tech stuff”, Chris Kenny has surprised himself – and his bosses at Sky News – with how smoothly he has managed to broadcast his hour-long show from his small hotel room in central Sydney for the past week, reports The Australian’s Chris Kenny.

Kenny, who hosts The Kenny Report on weeknights, is halfway through a 14-day lockdown, having been placed in mandatory quarantine following his return from the US where he had been covering the presidential election.

But for Kenny, the experience has been a revelation in regard to the future of broadcast journalism, and how some traditional obstacles to airing news programs like his can now be easily overcome.

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Landline founder’s sad parting after 34 years with ABC

It was a tough week for one of the stalwarts of ABC TV. Kerry Lonergan, who Aunty dubs the “founding father” of its award-winning rural show, Landline, was told last Tuesday that his contract was up and that Friday would be his last day after 34 years with the public broadcaster, reports The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff.

That apparently hasn’t gone down so well.

Lonergan, who started Landline in 1991, didn’t return to the office after the call. He’s believed to be seeking legal opinion at the urging of family and friends.

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Radio

Nine Radio shake-up: Why is Kate Stevenson leaving 3AW Breakfast?

The changes in the Melbourne radio market keep coming with a favourite from the city’s top rating show set to make a surprising departure, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

Hot on the heels of Eddie McGuire and Luke Darcy pulling the pin on their Triple M Hot Breakfast show, Kate Stevenson has confirmed she is departing 3AW’s all conquering Ross and Russel show and moving to corporate media role.

Stevenson has been a vital cog in the close knit team that works on 3AW breakfast for a decade.

She has been the show’s executive producer for seven years and in total she has been at AW for 14 years.

Stevenson’s will farewell the show and AW’s loyal listeners on Friday (November 20).

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Eddie McGuire looks forward to having free time after Triple M

Eddie McGuire is not a quitter, but he admits after 11 years his daily breakfast radio show combined with his other commitments has taken a physical toll, reports News Corp’s Fiona Byrne.

McGuire announced on Wednesday he would end his Hot Breakfast radio show on November 27, making it Triple M’s longest-running breakfast program.

Incredibly, McGuire has spent 23 of the past 32 years involved in some capacity with Triple M breakfast and so has created an extraordinary legacy with the station.

McGuire dismissed suggestions he had had a falling-out with co-host Luke Darcy and that had been the catalyst for the show’s end. Rather, he said, they were planning to spend time ­together.

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Television

How the Hemsworths were discovered and the pilot Nine rejected

Drama coach Louise Talmadge can still remember a hard-working young man named Luke Hemsworth was very popular in her drama classes – especially with the ladies, reports TV Tonight.

“Somebody said, ‘He looks like Brad Pitt, doesn’t he?’” she recalls.

“He said, ‘You should see my brother, Chris,’ So I said, ‘Let’s see him!’”

And with that, a show business family was born.

Talmadge was the first drama coach of the Hemsworth family, Luke, followed by Chris, Liam and mother Leonie. It was the late ’90s/early 2000s when Luke Hemsworth would drive from Phillip Island to Prahran to attend Talmadge’s drama classes. The US-born coach was renowned for her honest and sometimes brutal feedback and the ability to spot the emotional intelligence necessary for success.

Casting director Lou Mitchell cast Chris Hemsworth in a guest role as King Arthur in Guinevere Jones, a children’s series by producer Lynn Bayonas.

But their big break was due to be an ongoing role in a Nine/BSykB soap, The Coast.

While producers delivered several half hour episodes pitched as soap, Nine execs also wanted to see the same show as a one hour adult drama, prompting a re-edit into another pilot. Eventually the network passed on the series. It would be Home and Away that would become Chris Hemsworth’s starring vehicle, while Luke went on to Neighbours.

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Sports Media

Could rugby be Stan Sport’s audition for AFL rights?

The launch of Stan Sport last Monday gave many in the media a jolt, but probably none more so than Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.

The News Corp-majority owned pay TV company’s agreement to show Australian football could now face more competitive pressure than Delany or Foxtel had been expecting.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, who didn’t extend Foxtel’s deal beyond 2022, is now in the driver’s seat. He will probably take a patient approach, giving Nine’s new venture, Stan Sport, time to prove its credentials as a major pay TV sports broadcaster after it signed a three-year $100 million deal with Rugby Australia, and giving Australian football the competitive tension that it lacks in pay TV rights.

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‘Let’s see how they go:’ Optus unfazed by Stan Sport launch

Optus chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin has dismissed concerns about excessive competition in the streaming video market after the arrival of Stan Sport and revealed the telco will expand its fitness offering before searching for new content deals, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Zoe Samios.

Nine will use the rugby rights to launch Stan Sport, an additional subscription product which was announced last week. Bayer Rosmarin was not concerned about the potential for more competition in the streaming landscape, and for sports rights.

“Possibly [more competition for rights],” she said. “They’re going to start with rugby and let’s see how they go with that.”

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