Domain 2.0 isn’t my plan, claims Antony Catalano

The new owner of Nine’s regional newspapers and former CEO of Domain, Antony Catalano, has denied suggestions he’s building a real estate roll-up to take on his former employer.

Catalano has already taken a stake in Domain’s biggest client, media agency Tomorrow, and yesterday, he purchased 160-plus regional mastheads which Nine inherited as part of the Fairfax deal. Sources have speculated to Mumbrella this is part of a wider play for Catalano, who could roll-up the interests and assets to launch a real estate portal to take on Domain, which is majority owned by Nine.

Catalano: ‘Why would I have my own real estate play?’

He told Mumbrella, however, that suggestions he has eyes on another real estate portal are unsubstantiated, and insisted he wants to continue to work with Domain, and its majority owner, Nine.

“Why would I have my own real estate play when I’ve got a clearly defined partnership which includes promotion with the Nine Network for the next three years?,” he said.

“It’s ill-informed speculation without understanding. We’ve clearly done a deal [with Nine]. We clearly want to work together,” he said, noting it would work against him to go up against Nine and Domain.

“The speculation doesn’t have any basis. It’s actually completely contrary to what’s in front of you.”

Catalano did, however, concede that back in his Fairfax days, he had visions of such a roll-up.

“I actually thought at one time that Fairfax should actually buy advertising agencies in the real estate space [to] close the loop. Then you could independently advise your clients – imagine if Fairfax or Domain could have owned Tomorrow [the media agency Catalano has a stake in], but also sent money to REA [Domain’s rival]? You’re in the group, you’re in the network, you nurture the circle of interest in the category,” he told Mumbrella.

Mumbrella understands that the deal does include significant property assets.

After news of the sale emerged, Mumbrella was also contacted by a disgruntled Cristian King, who claimed to have been interested in purchasing the regional assets from Nine for around $92m – below that of Catalano and Thorney Investment’s $115m. It is not clear how King, the 24-year-old publisher of Latte Life, would have funded his proposal.

King, who conceded he “came in a couple of weeks late” with his offer, said he hopes Catalano doesn’t “continue with the failed Fairfax strategy of sacking to prosperity”.

Catalano was unaware of King’s involvement in the bidding process, but said he’s an investor at heart, and wanted to grow the company.

“I started MMP [Metro Media Publishing], which started with five people and grew to 320 people when we merged with Fairfax, and so cutting wasn’t in my DNA, investing is,” he said.

He noted he’d been involved in the float of businesses and grew Domain from 175 staff to 800 staff, and said he always has a clear investment strategy for viable business assets.


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