Updated: Hugh Marks announces departure from Nine

Nine CEO Hugh Marks has announced his intention to depart Nine during the second half of FY21.

Marks has led Nine for five years. The abrupt announcement comes after a big week for Nine where it launched Stan Sport, announced deals with Rugby Australia as well as Wimbledon and Roland Garros, and held a successful AGM that saw Marks predict a 15% uptick in metro free-to-air ad revenue for the December quarter.

It was also followed by significant media coverage surrounding Marks’ personal life and accusations of tension amongst Board members at Nine.

Marks sent a statement to colleagues on Saturday announcing that he had decided to resign from his position and begin the process of finding a suitable replacement. This was followed today with a statement lodged on the ASX this morning.

This morning’s statement reiterated that Marks would continue as the Group CEO while the Board assessed its requirements and options.

“When I was appointed CEO five years ago, my brief was to lead the transformation of what was then a television business, to a digitally-based media company,” Marks said in the statement. “We have achieved so much in that time frame.

“Bringing together three legacy media businesses, each with their own structural challenges, and investing in the assets that will ensure our position at the forefront of Australia’s media future. Nine’s suite of assets today – with Stan, 9Now and Domain, complementing our core broadcast and publishing businesses – is second to none in Australia. With almost 50% of our earnings sourced from our digital assets providing a clear growth profile for the company, I am confident this is an opportune time to announce my retirement, whilst giving the Board plenty of time to appoint a successor.”

Board member Peter Costello added, “Hugh has been an extremely successful CEO for Nine, and has achieved so much in building the company in his time at the helm. The transformation of Nine to a multi-media and digital business has been all-encompassing and we now have an unreplicable suite of assets, fit to lead us through the digital age. We respect Hugh’s decision, allowing us plenty of notice to work through the next few months, and enable an orderly transition. We wish him well in all his future endeavours.”

Marks speaking to Mumbrella founder Tim Burrowes at Mumbrella360 2019

Marks appeared at Mumbrella360 last year in a fireside chat with Mumbrella founder and then content director Tim Burrowes. During the chat he was asked directly by Burrowes what ‘mission accomplished’ looked like and whether there was a succession plan or not.

“It’s really hard to know,” Marks said. “There is no big thing coming down on the horizon. It’s just an evolution. The rise of on demand viewing, the rise of the propensity to pay for content, and these are things that we are well positioned for as a business to participate in. And then you have the things that haven’t changed. We have this three part strategy which we communicate to our staff which is; create great content, distribute it broadly, and engage audiences and advertisers. To create great content – that will never change. It will be like that in 20 years time. The engagement has never changed and won’t change. It is just the distribution in the middle. Provided we as a media business and marketers can embrace that change in a way where we are really maximising return, for us getting audiences or for marketers, selling stuff, you can actually get through that.”

On succession plans he said, “I have heaps of people that are brilliantly qualified to take over from me at some stage. That is the holy grail. When I make myself redundant I will know I have done a great job.”

In the statement to colleagues (in full below), Marks mentioned both internal and external candidates would be considered and assured staff he would be there to ensure a smooth transition.

Nine had previously batted away rumours Marks intended to leave his position. A spokeswoman was quoted in a March 2020 article in the AFR as saying that, at that stage, there were no plans for the CEO to step down at the end of the year.

His full statement to colleagues is below.

Dear Colleagues,

After five successful years for Nine, I have decided the time is right for me begin the process of moving on. 

An announcement to this effect will be made to the market on Monday and we will then commence a formal process for both internal and external candidates for my replacement. And of course, I will be around to ensure a smooth transition as the business embarks on its next stage of growth.

I want to take this opportunity to tell you what a privilege it has been leading this business over a truly transformational period for both the media market generally, and particularly our business.

We have gone from being three separate, legacy media businesses in Nine, Fairfax Media and Macquarie Media, each with their own structural challenges, and created a business that now has a diversified revenue base across both advertising and subscription, and that has a clear growth strategy for decades to come.

We have demonstrated the importance of great content, be that in the powerful and unique journalism we create every day, across all platforms, or in entertainment, where the shows we build become household names and engage Australians in their millions. Because at the end of the day, we are, and will remain, a content business.

COVID-19 has also demonstrated how we are stronger together. It is clear now, that Nines assets across television, radio, print and digital are a unique proposition together for advertisers, but also for Nine, as we grow powerful subscriber businesses, like Stan and our mastheads, both of which are at record subscription levels.

Trust me when I say there is no other company with the assets or strategic position of Nine.

In particular, I want to thank our Chairman Peter Costello for the extraordinary support he has given to me and to the entire business over the past five years. His commitment to us all and to our future success is without peer.

I leave knowing that Nine has an incredibly strong management team leading it across all its businesses. And of course, a depth of passion and drive and commitment right through all of our people.

Finally, I want to thank each of you for what you do every day. It is the ingenuity, creativity and dedication that you all bring to Nine and the Nine family which makes this place special, and which will ensure it continues to lead the market for many years to come.



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