‘Blokey’ Nine Network’s problem with women
Six Nine Entertainment executives are jockeying to replace outgoing chief executive Hugh Marks amid rumblings that only one woman is in contention, reinforcing growing concern about the company's "blokey" culture.
A number of external media figures are also vying to replace Mr Marks, who quit in November after board discomfort when he revealed his relationship with a subordinate.
Sources who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity said the company's highly regarded marketing boss, Lizzie Young, was the only woman asked to present to the Nine board.
Other internal contenders include chief digital and publishing officer Chris Janz, Stan chief executive Mike Sneesby - both touted as frontrunners for the position - along with Nine radio managing director Tom Malone.
Nine's director of television Michael Healy and the company's chief sales officer, Michael Stephenson, are also understood to be under consideration.
Mr Marks's resignation from the $4.2bn media company came as it emerged that he was in a relationship with his commercial director Alexi Baker, before she left the business.
The Australian reported at the time that Nine's board was split over the relationship. Directors formerly with Fairfax Media, which merged with Nine in December 2018, pushed for an independent investigation.
The Australian has been told that the Nine board is considering a number of external candidates including former SBS managing director Michael Ebeid, former Network Ten chief executive Grant Blackley and Australian Radio Network chief executive Ciaran Davis. Former News Corp executive Peter Tonagh was also considered to be in contention, but he told The Australian on Thursday that he had not been approached about the role.
Mr Janz is a former editor of news.com.au, owned by News Corp Australia, publisher of The Australian.
Sources close to Nine said former Australia Post chief executive Christine Holgate was also "actively lobbying" to be considered as a possible successor to Mr Marks.
Ms Holgate did not respond to calls on Thursday.
At this stage, Ms Young is the only woman among the short-listed candidates who have been interviewed or have been scheduled to be interviewed in coming days. She did not respond to a request for comment.
However, it is understood there is a strong push by senior female staff at Nine for Ms Young to be seriously considered as the next chief executive, amid some acrimony over the "blokey" culture at the company.
A Nine spokeswoman said the selection process had been "remarkably collegiate". "Everyone is being very supportive of each other," the spokeswoman said. "There's not actually been that much talk about it. People are just working hard and getting on with it. It's business as usual."
Mr Marks has committed to remaining with the company until February, or until a replacement is found. But the commencement of the interview process in the days before Christmas suggests Nine wants the new chief executive installed by the end of summer.
Mr Janz is credited with reshaping the business model of the newspaper and digital divisions of the former Fairfax Media. He is close to the senior newspaper team. Part of the issue for Nine has been marrying the distinct cultures clashes between the old Fairfax journalists, the broadcast arm and the more conservative radio division.
Mr Sneesby, believed to be the other main contender, has been in charge of Stan for seven years.
Ms Young joined Nine in 2010 and was appointed managing director of the group's marketing division this year.
Mr Malone oversees radio stations 2GB, 3AW, 4BC, 6PR and Macquarie Sports Radio, and was previously Nine's director of sport.
Mr Marks's departure comes as the company's most senior broadcast executive, Nine News director Darren Wick, is facing court on a high-range drink-driving charge and has taken time off for rehabilitation.
Mr Marks told The Australian in November he had decided to resign from his position after gossip got "out of control - 99.5 per cent of which was untrue".
Nine sources indicated several directors did not know about the relationship between Mr Marks and Ms Baker until days before his resignation - and held concerns that the company's chairman, Peter Costello, had known for longer.
The relationship between Mr Marks and Ms Baker had been common knowledge on the executive floor and beyond for several weeks.
Originally published as 'Blokey' Nine's problem with women