Investors wait to hear from Nine board on CEO search and future direction

Nine Entertainment Co. (Nine) will hold an investor day tomorrow (19 November), to update the market on the sudden resignation of CEO Hugh Marks.

Industry leaders and investors shared shock and praise following the announcement by Marks on Saturday (14 November). His resignation followed coverage in media outlets that he and former Nine executive Alexi Baker had been in an intimate relationship while he had been her superior at Nine. Baker left her role at Nine on 1 October.

Wilson Asset Management lead portfolio manager, Oscar Oberg, said of Marks: “We regarded Hugh as one of the best CEOs on the ASX.”

Paykel Media managing director, Sarah Keith, shared that sentiment telling Mumbrella: “Recent events shouldn’t be allowed to obscure the fact that Hugh Marks has been an outstanding CEO for Nine, driving strong results for the business during an extremely torrid time for traditional media.”

The resignation comes at a time when the board at Nine, led by chairman and former federal treasurer Peter Costello, are rumoured to be at loggerheads.

Nine chairman, Peter Costello, and other board members rumoured to be at odds over the Marks and Baker relationship.

According to News Limited’s The Australian, the Nine board was split over Marks’s relationship not being disclosed to board members in a more timely manner. According to the publication, board members such as former Fairfax Media board member, Nick Falloon, wanted Marks’s relationship with Baker to be investigated by independent parties, while other board members, such as Costello wanted it handled internally.

Oberg commented that in regard to the board’s next steps, investors would be looking for
“clarity around the timing of the appointment”, and “whether the company will be looking for internal or external candidates”.

He added that while while Marks is a loss for Nine, “there are a number of high quality international candidates within the business” and that as Nine is now a group of individual businesses with their own divisional heads, “we believe it is well placed to find a suitable replacement and to continue outperforming”.

Nine chief digital and publishing officer Chris Janz and Stan chief executive Mike Sneesby, are both touted to be likely candidates to take over from Marks.

A statement from the Nine board wrote: “The board is working together in a united way under the leadership of the chairman to deal with all current issues. The board has confidence in Hugh and the Nine management team to lead the business and ensure a smooth leadership transition.”

Pearman Media director, Steve Allen, said that the Nine board had ahead of them more than a search for a new CEO, but also for an internal policy on interoffice relationships. “This kind of situation heightens that it is not just at director level, board level or senior management level, it goes all the way through the company.

“Boards all round are struggling with this, and it would appear that publicly-listed companies overseas are more on top of this than local ones,” he added.

Both in the public sector and politics, there has been heightened scrutiny around relationships between colleagues or staff and their superiors following a string of scandals and resignations.

Allen said that going forward, “any publicly-listed media asset in Australia, needs to have a policy on this [relationships]. And all staff and management need to understand the policy.”


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