Domain claims Catalano’s exit has had ‘no impact whatsoever’

The departure of high-profile CEO Antony Catalano has not dented the Domain business, the media and real estate company has claimed in a call to investors.

Catalano re-joined Fairfax in 2013, but left again earlier this year

An investor on the call flagged Catalano’s strong relationships with real estate agents and questioned if his resignation would therefore harm the business, but executive chairman Nick Falloon stressed “we don’t see any impact at all”. He also claimed there would be “no impact whatsoever going forward”. 

“We don’t see any impact at all. We’ve got great relationships with the agents, clearly in Tom Ainsworth [chief sales officer] who’s recently joined us in the last six months. He has continuing relationships.

“We have very strong relationships with all our agents across the whole country and we don’t see any impact whatsoever on that going forward.

“And around the table with me today is a management team with a lot expertise, a lot across the board of this digital business and the relationships are very strong. So we see no ongoing problem there at all.” 

Falloon refused to be drawn on when the company would appoint a new leader, saying he would not be constrained by timelines.

“We’re not setting a date or anything, but the search is well underway and we’ll be working through that as and when we can. We’re certainly not waiting, but as to trying to predict how long it will be, I don’t want to [give a timeline],” he said. 

He contended, however, that the calibre of candidates is “truly impressive”.

“I’m pleased to say the global search is underway for a new group CEO. We are searching for an individual who will take Domain to its next stage of growth. We expect the new leader to have execution discipline and relevant experience in driving a growth business and building a great culture.

“The calibre of the candidates that we are attracting is truly impressive. They’re fitting Domain’s position as a leading real estate, media and technology business,” he said.

Catalano’s immediate departure was announced in January, just two months after the company was separated from the main Fairfax business. Domain now exists as a Fairfax-controlled ASX-listed entity, with Falloon acting as executive chairman until a replacement is found.

Despite citing family as the reason for his departure, Catalano has since been accused of fostering a “boys club workplace culture” with complaints stretching back two years.

Catalano has an extensive history with Fairfax. He was the property editor and marketing director for Fairfax’s The Age before he was made redundant by the company. He went on to launch Metro Media Publishing in 2010, which included The Weekly Review – a rival to Fairfax’s The Melbourne Weekly.

By 2011, Fairfax had taken a 50% stake in Catalano’s venture for $35m. The deal also saw the assets of Fairfax Community Newspapers merged into Metro Media Publishing.

In 2013, Catalano rejoined Fairfax as Domain’s CEO. At the time, Fairfax chief executive officer Greg Hywood said: “We are delighted Antony will lead our Domain business and retain oversight of MMP. Having put MMP on the road to sustained success Antony is now in a position to lead Domain and take it to its full potential.

“Antony is innovative, entrepreneurial, highly competitive and his knowledge of theAustralian real estate market is second to none. His appointment is clearly a significant industry development.”

Domain released its first results as a separately listed ASX entity this morning, reporting revenue of $112.7m and a net loss after tax of $3.4m in its statutory results.

The Domain separation implementation date was 22 November, 2017, but Falloon highlighted the pro forma – rather than the statutory – results which exclude significant items and are calculated as if Domain has been a separately listed entity for the current and comparative periods.

“Domain has today reported a pleasing first standalone result, with pro forma EBITDA [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation] growth of 8.7% and a strong underlying performance. It demonstrates the strength of Domain as a separately listed company and the ongoing success of its strategy,” he said.

According to these pro forma results, revenue would be $183.3m, a climb of 12.5%. EBITDA would be $56.8m, which is up 8.7% on the comparative period. Net profit after tax however would be $24.7m, which is down 8.1%.


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