Nine names Mike Sneesby as CEO

Nine Entertainment Co has confirmed Stan boss Mike Sneesby will replace Hugh Marks as the media company’s CEO, effective 1 April.

Sneesby has been with Nine’s streaming platform since its inception, joining almost eight years ago from Cudo, the group buying website part-owned by Nine.

Mike Sneesby is the new boss at Nine

“I am honoured to be entrusted with this important role, to be the custodian for many of Australia’s most important, valuable and iconic media brands,” said Sneesby, who will earn $1.4 million a year including superannuation, with the chance to earn up to $1.75 million should he exceed targets.

“I have worked alongside by colleagues at Nine for many years and I look forward to building our future together as we embrace the opportunities presented in the emerging and growing digital future.

“The Nine family is made up of journalists, technicians, producers and so many dedicated to their craft. It will be the honour of a lifetime to lead them.”

The appointment was lodged with the ASX ahead of an in-person media event at Nine’s new North Sydney headquarters at 10am, called just before 9am and fronted by chair Peter Costello.

Costello and Sneesby at the announcement event. Photo: Tim Burrowes

The confirmation of Marks’ successor comes days after the outgoing Marks delivered the company’s strong half year results, board member Patrick Allaway resigned, and Nine’s newspapers revealed deputy chair Nick Falloon is under investigation for the alleged misuse of a corporate golf membership.

Costello confirmed the decision to promote Sneesby into the top job was made last week, and vehemently denied the suggestion that the board is fractured, asserting that the new CEO has the support of a united board.

“Under Mike’s leadership, Nine will be able to maintain the strong momentum it has built in audience, subscribers, content, revenue and earnings,” Costello said.

“Mike is well placed to continue to drive Nine’s transformation as a digitally led business which is actively adapting to meet the contemporary media consumption habits of Australians.”

Last Thursday, Marks delivered the company’s half year results for the six months ending in December: net profit surged by 79% to $182 million, leading to a record-high share price and, for the first time, a market capitalisation of above $5 billion. In response to Sneesby’s appointment, Nine’s share price surged to a new record-high of $3.07, even higher than the $2.93 it reached last week.

Sneesby speaking at this morning’s event

Costello thanked Marks – whose last day at the company will be 31 March – for his leadership, adding: “I also want to pay tribute to the remarkable tenure of Hugh Marks, who in 2015, inherited a legacy television business with a market capitalisation of around $1.3 billion.

“Through the combined strength that came from the Nine-Fairfax merger, our current market capitalisation has grown to just over $5 billion. This is a remarkable turn-around and Hugh has my sincere thanks and gratitude for his work.

“His time as CEO has seen Nine make a number of key strategic decisions, which not only redefined Nine but changed the wider media landscape in Australia.”

Marks was not present at the announcement because he has been in hospital for a number of days with an infection, Costello disclosed.

“He has an infection. He’s being tested for that infection. And he’s been in hospital for several days. I read in the paper that he wasn’t at some of the investor presentation[s], that’s because he’s in the hospital.

“I don’t want you to think it’s life threatening, or anything like that, but he’s just got an infection.”

Marks will “remain available to assist with a handover to Mr Sneesby in the following months,” the business told the stock exchange.

Sneesby’s background makes him well placed to lead the TV and digital arms of the broad media business, which also has dominance in publishing and radio. At Stan, Sneesby has overseen significant growth of both subscribers and programming; the platform currently has 2.3 million subscribers and a market capitalisation of around $1 billion.

He guided the business through the early days of the streaming wars, as competitors like Quickflix and Presto fell away, and has signed significant deals with the likes of Vodafone, CBS Studios, MGM, Showtime, and NBC Universal.

In his time at Stan, Sneesby also led Stan’s original programming push that includes shows like Bump – Stan’s most successful series to date – The Other Guy, The Commons, The Gloaming, and True History of the Kelly Gang.

Costello and Sneesby

Last year, Sneesby made the significant announcement that Stan would make its foray into the sports arena with Stan Sport, promptly brokering deals with Rugby Australia and various tennis events including Wimbledon and Roland Garros.

Just days after that announcement, Marks handed in his shock resignation after five years at the helm, prompted by the admission of a relationship with former senior Nine executive, Alexi Baker. But last week, he told Mumbrella he was comfortable with the timing because “everything I set out to do is done”.

That sparked an extensive search for his replacement, with the pool of candidates whittled down to a select few, including Sneesby, chief publishing and digital officer Chris Janz, and former Endemol Shine boss Carl Fennessy.

Stan Sport, a monthly $10 add on to a regular Stan subscription, launched just over a week ago in line with the rugby season. The first match attracted 200,000 viewers – triple the audience of last season’s corresponding game. 97,000 metro viewers tuned in on free to air multi-channel, 9Gem, and a reported 150,000 nationally, meaning the remaining 50,000 watched via Stan Sport.

Stan’s EBITDA jumped 161% for the half, and Marks said Stan Sport will only continue to drive up subscriber numbers.


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