Nick Chan has landed his dream job – but it’s not the same company anymore

miranda ward landscapeWith Nick Chan returning to Bauer Media as CEO, Mumbrella’s Miranda Ward examines what his appointment means for Australia’s number one magazine publisher. 

Last week saw the news everyone knew was coming – Nick Chan was finally handed the job he’d long coveted.

Andreas Schoo, Bauer Media’s interim CEO, named Chan as David Goodchild’s official replacement.

For the industry it came as no surprise – Chan was one of a number of mooted candidates for the high-profile magazine publishing role.

And for Chan, it’s the job that nearly got away.

“This is his dream job,” an industry executive told Mumbrella. “He always wanted to run ACP and this is ACP with a different name. But it’s a different business now.”


Chan lands his dream job leading Bauer Media

Chan started his publishing career at Kerry Packer’s ACP Magazines, which was acquired by Bauer Media in 2012, and was considered a protege of ACP’s former publisher, Richard Walsh.

It has often been speculated that Chan wanted to succeed Walsh in the top position at ACP; however, a sudden departure in December 2000, after rising to become the company’s chief operating officer and then deputy publisher, squashed that dream.

Chan, after two years as CEO of Text Media, resurfaced at Bauer Media rival Pacific Magazines where he spent the next 10 years as its CEO.

It’s this role that many are examining for indicators on how Chan will handle the top job at Bauer.

What will Chan do at Bauer?

While most industry experts acknowledge that Chan is well-respected, his digital record is one of his biggest question marks, as digital is clearly a major focus of Bauer Media.

In February, interim CEO Andreas Schoo told Mumbrella: “We must bring the company from a magazine company to a more multi-media company that is platform agnostic and that has more revenue sources.”

The question is: how will Chan firstly interpret and then achieve this goal?

An industry insider told Mumbrella that Chan’s appointment signifies the challenge at Bauer isn’t just about fixing internal management problems. “If it was a matter of just fixing what’s broken, they would have hired internally,” they said.

And while righting the Bauer ship will be a large part of Chan’s job, initially, his other priorities aren’t necessarily as clear.

While many agree that Chan was “not digitally focused” during his time at Pacific, one industry expert suggests that in the current market that “doesn’t matter”.

“Four years ago that mattered,” the source said. “Now digital is just part of the business. Chan needs to be thinking about what’s the big game-changer for Bauer?”

And it seems the “game-changer” for Bauer will most likely be acquisitions.

“He’s going to have to buy stuff,” an industry insider said.


Ryan: Bauer could be a powerful media business in Australia in the future

It’s a view agreed upon by Simon Ryan, CEO of media buying agency Dentsu Aegis Australia.

Ryan told The Australian: “It’s one of the most interesting jobs in media, on the proviso he has the full backing, endorsement and ability to acquire other media assets.

“With the potential relaxation of the media laws and with Nick at the helm, if they invest in the right mergers and acquisitions strategy, I think Bauer could be a powerful media business in Australia in the future.”

Indeed, radio is the most obvious target for Chan considering Bauer’s interest and its radio division in the UK.

Bauer Media has a radio division in the UK with its ambitions in Australia a consistent subject of the industry rumour mill.

While there have been numerous reports that the German media giant has made efforts to buy Lachlan Murdoch’s Nova Entertainment, operator of the Nova and Smooth FM networks, in February Schoo rejected the idea there were any discussions on the table.

“We are a really active company with a lot of M&A activity around the world,” Schoo said. “Nova is, of course, an interesting target but there aren’t any discussions right now and we can discuss it when these targets are on the market.”

Amongst the urgent challenges will be an examination of Bauer’s portfolio, especially its challenged celebrity weekly titles with speculation suggesting OK! could be a focus for change considering the changes at rival, Famous magazine.

An intriguing element of the appointment is the new rivalry between former colleagues Chan and Peter Zavecz, his successor as CEO at Pacific Magazines. Chan and Zavecz were famously close as a leadership team at PacMags, eating breakfast together virtually every day at a Chippendale cafe on the way into work. 

Zavecz: too many weekly magazines

Zavecz: “I worked with Chan for 20 years, you only get 15 for murder”

Zavecz quips: “I worked with him for 20 years, you only get 15 for murder.”

More seriously, Zavecz said: “He’s big on content. Whether it’s print or digital, it doesn’t matter. What you’ll see is some real leadership at the top of those titles.

“I’ve known Nick for a long time, he really values content and people who can create content. But it’s going to be content in different forms – video and social.

Zavecz, who is also chairman of industry body Magazine Publishers Australia, said he aims to work with Chan (himself a former chair of the MPA) to highlight the value of magazines for advertisers.

“I’m looking forward to competing against him but working with him to push the category,” he said. “We all need to be in the market, beating the same drum talking about the benefits of magazines rather than trying to cut each other’s lunch. We need to re-engage with media agencies.”

The Bauer reaction

While outside of Bauer Media, Chan’s appointment wasn’t the greatest of surprises, for those within the business the announcement came as a bit of a shock.

In the four months since David Goodchild’s sudden departure Bauer management had built up its potential candidate as “dynamic” – someone who would turn the magazine company “upside down”.

Bauer insiders were expecting a choice more outside of the box.

As the search for the right candidate went on, those within Bauer were told the two potentials (one of which obviously was Chan) where “lighthouses” – meaning shining beacons of talent.

An industry insider said: “He certainly knows how to run a magazine company. But this isn’t a just a magazine company anymore.”

But this is where Chan’s near two years outside the industry comes into play.

After Chan’s promotion to Seven West Media, where he was chief operating officer, he had less of an impact on the television industry and departed after just 14 months in the role as part of a management restructure. Since then he has been working with Pro-Active Games and online wagering business TopBetta in roles as non-executive director and non-executive chairman, respectively.

What is in Chan’s favour is these aren’t big shoes to fill. David Goodchild, by all reports, was not the right choice to lead Bauer Media in Australia.

But it doesn’t mean Chan can rest on his laurels – he finally has the job he’s coveted for so long, so now is the time to make sure he’s the one who turns Bauer Media Australia into a true multimedia company with a viable future.

If Chan can turn Bauer Media around, it will be good for the entire industry, and his next challenge, alongside NewsLifeMedia’s Nichole Sheffield and PacMag’s Zavecz, will be proving to advertiser that magazines continue to offer solid investment for ad dollars.

  • Miranda Ward is Mumbrella’s Publishing and PR editor

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