Top stories of 2020: Nova’s Cathy O’Connor quits, sales boss takes over

Cathy O'Connor

• Until September the company had only been ruled by two CEOs in over 20 years

The Lachlan Murdoch-owned Nova Entertainment has been a pillar of stability with few executive changes, until 2020. The radio broadcaster was initially called DMG Australia with a portfolio of regional radio stations. Until September the company had only been ruled by two CEOs in over 20 years – founder and part owner Paul Thompson and more recently Cathy O’Connor.

Thompson introduced the Nova brand around Australia starting in Sydney in 2001 with the company name eventually changing to Nova Entertainment in 2014. As a new CEO was announced, Mediaweek’s Trent Thomas spoke with outgoing CEO O’Connor, and her replacement Peter Charlton.

New oOh!media CEO Cathy O’Connor on her change from radio to OOH

On Monday oOh!media announced the appointment of Cathy O’Connor as managing director and chief executive officer, from early 2021.

O’Connor comes to oOh!media with 35 years of sales experience working for Australian media organisations, including the last 12 years as CEO of Nova Entertainment Group.

The appointment follows a global search for a replacement for founder and CEO, Brendon Cook, who earlier this year announced his intention to stand down from the role after more than 30 years.

Mediaweek spoke with O’Connor shortly after the announcement and discussed her new role, her time at Nova, and the future of oOh!media .

O’Connor was approached about the role recently and described the opportunity to lead a company in a high growth industry as one that was hard to turn down.

“The CEO of Nova is a great job and you could only ever leave it for a great job. And I see the CEO of oOh!media and the chance to build on the work of Brendon Cook as a great job.”

“The out of home sector has very strong growth prospects and is becoming such a potent force in a world where intelligence around data in audiences is coming to prominence. And oOh!media is very well placed in that future landscape.”

Junkee Media

While O’Connor described the out of home sector as the main reason for the move, another key aspect of the companies portfolio is Junkee Media which she says is a good fit for her with her background in content.

“The Junkee Media element of the business which is all about the content and the changes that they have made around developing their capability in content sits very comfortably with my background in radio.”

Why oOh!media wanted Cathy O’Connor

oOh!media chair Tony Faure said that there is only one Brendon Cook and that he could never be replaced, but the task was to find someone who would be right to lead the company into its next phase.

“The critical things we see in Cathy are first of all her incredibly strong track record of building a strong business in Nova over a long period of time. Secondly, she showed great ability to drive the profitability of Nova by innovating and also being efficient. And Thirdly, she has a terrific track record in investing in and developing talent.”

“We see a very big opportunity to build a business that is so efficient at reaching people it can take a broader market share from other media forms.”

The future of Nova and highlights as CEO

Nova didn’t mess around with finding O’Connor’s replacement announcing her successor at the same time as her departure, internally promoting Nova chief commercial officer Peter Charlton as the new CEO of Nova – who O’Connor said was always her recommendation for the job.

“I am incredibly proud of building a commercial team under Peter’s leadership which has grown its revenue share every year since I have been in this role and it can only be done by a fantastic commercial leader like Peter.”

When pressed about her highlights during her tenure O’Connor said that she is proud of the progress Nova had made under her stewardship.

“When I took the role, I think Nova had plateaued in its performance in FM radio. So re-launching the Nova Network and establishing the hit position that ultimately took Nova to the number one reaching metro brand stands out, and the launch of smoothfm has been wonderful as well.”

The Future at oOh!media

While still a fair bit off from her anticipated 2021 start at oOh!media , when asked about her early plans for the company O’Connor says that oOH! is in a similar situation to most companies during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Coming out of a pandemic every media company is focused on resetting for growth and driving that growth in a really constructive and front foot way. And I expect to be working shoulder to shoulder with the team to do everything I can do to support the improvement of that commercial performance.”

Peter Charlton new Nova CEO as Cathy O’Connor goes to oOh!media

Peter Charlton w

Nova Entertainment has announced that after 18 years with the company, including 12 years as CEO, Cathy O’Connor is leaving Nova to take over as CEO of oOh!media Limited.

Nova Chief Commercial Officer Peter Charlton will succeed O’Connor on 2 November 2020. 
 
Charlton has been Chief Commercial Officer for eight years and worked with Nova in various roles since August 2012. He has spent more than 20 years in the media industry. 
 
Nova Entertainment executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch said: “Cathy has been a great leader of the Nova team. Nova Entertainment is the number one commercial radio network in Australia and is continuing to outperform the industry in a challenging time. I know she will do well in her new role.”
 
O’Connor said: “It has been a privilege to serve as CEO of Nova Entertainment over the last 12 years. Leading one of the media industry’s most innovative companies, our team has successfully continued to create content our audiences love, reaching them through new and creative ways. Fresh leadership under Peter Charlton will see NOVA continue to deliver on its strategic objectives, bringing to the role with him a wealth of experience and insights.”
Cathy O’Connor
 
Nova also announced today that Peter Colosimo will become chief operating officer. Colosimo has been with Nova for seven years and has a deep understanding of the business.
 
Nova Entertainment executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch said: “Today’s appointments of Peter Charlton and Pete Colosimo reflect the depth of talent we have at NOVA Entertainment. Our ratings success this year has demonstrated the strength of Nova and the creativity of all our team. Peter and Pete have the operational and commercial experience to accelerate that success and our growth.”
 
Peter Charlton said: “I am honoured to be appointed as CEO and have the opportunity to lead the talented and hard-working team here at Nova. Under Cathy the Company has gone from strength to strength and we have the right people and the right culture to continue to build on our success.”

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