Nine CEO Hugh Marks hits back on Lisa Wilkinson departure: ‘It’s not just a pay thing’

Nine CEO Hugh Marks has refuted claims the shock departure of Today Show host Lisa Wilkinson was primarily about money, arguing that she had declined to sign an exclusive contract, which restricted their ability to use her across Nine’s digital assets.

Marks said the reason the company walked away from the long-standing television host was because they couldn’t secure exclusive digital rights.

Marks: ‘It’s not just a pay thing’

Among other things, Wilkinson is editor-at-large for HuffPost Australia and also recently signed up as the face of supplements product Nutra-Life.
“She has a number of commercial rights with other parties. Her arrangement with The Huffington Post restricts our ability to engage with her digitally… we are restricted from engaging with her also on social media,” Marks said in an article posted by 9News.

“It’s not just a pay thing. We want people to partner with us, who are invested and want to go on the journey with us.”

Commenting on the pay specifics, Marks added: “I went to an incredible amount of trouble to build a $1.8 million package for her. She wanted $2.3 million. It wasn’t a $200,000 shortfall to Karl’s $2 million magic number. It was $500,000.”

Marks said: “I have been a great supporter of women in our business in terms of salary equity and position, when we are discussing on-air talent we assess their contribution beyond just their gender, audience appeal, rights and contribution to the overall business – and not their own brand.”

The Nine CEO said it became an issue when Wilkinson broke her arm in Europe and wrote a story for the HuffPost where she is editor-at-large, rather than provide content on the Today Show or Nine’s digital platforms including 9Honey.

Marks said the contract discussions had been at a standstill for months and the company had limited access to her due to rival commercial commitments.

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Marks said: “I hate the fact we have to compare her with Karl but with him we have all those rights. With Lisa we do not.”

He claimed the money could be invested in young journalists.

Wilkinson is set to join Ten in January as co-host of The Project and The Sunday Project. Other contributions to her new network are yet to be announced.

At the time of posting, Wilkinson’s manager Nick Fordham had not responded to Mumbrella’s invitation to comment on Marks’ claims.


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