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Peter Costello exits Nine, effective immediately

Nine Entertainment Co’s chairman, Peter Costello, has resigned effective immediately.

The ASX announcement came on Sunday evening.

“After nearly eleven years on the board of Nine Entertainment Company (NEC) and more than eight years as chair, I had flagged retiring from the board some time after the July Olympics and by the AGM in November at latest. Last year, the company retained a search firm to identify new directors. The work is well advance,” he said in a statement sent to Mumbrella.

“I have today informed the board of NEC that I will pull forward that timing, stand down as chair and resign as a director.”

Peter Costello

His resignation comes amidst numerous reports of alleged sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct across the business.

After claims that former news boss Darren Wick sexually harassed an on-air Nine personality at a Logies after-party on the Gold Coast, Nine’s CEO, Mike Sneesby, sent an email to staffers, imploring them to report any “inappropriate behaviour” in the workplace. Later, he sent another email saying “broader cultural issues” will be addressed.

Last week, Costello was caught on camera allegedly assaulting a reporter from The Australian – an act he later denied. He was walking through Canberra Airport on Thursday night, when he was peppered with questions from The Australian’s journalist Liam Mendes regarding the current scandal at Nine. Video footage showed contact between Costello and Mendes, then the journalist hitting the ground.

He called claims the footage could threaten his job as chairman “rubbish”, reiterating, “there’s no assault, he was backing backwards, he hit an advertising placard, I did not lay a finger or a fist or anything else on him.”

In his statement, Costello said: “Since I have been asked many times, I would like to place a few facts on the record… Mr Sneesby has always had my full support as CEO. The company has set up a robust process to investigate historical complaints which has my full support. I believe it will get to the bottom of any unknown issues.

“I thank the board for their support over the last decade and particularly during the events of the last few weeks. I wish the board, the employees and the company well,” Costello continued.

“There are enormous challenges ahead but I believe Nine is the best placed Australian media company to weather them and prosper.”

Catherine West has been appointed as the new chair of Nine Entertainment Co.

Catherine West

She has worked in the media and entertainment industry for over 30 years, across the UK, Europe and Australia. She has spent the past eight years as Nine’s deputy chair.

Costello said Nine “need[s] a new chair to unite them around a fresh vision, and someone with the energy to lead to that vision for the next decade”.

“The board has been supportive through the events of the last month and last few days in particular,” he explained.

“The new chair will require full support from all directors as this is an industry where there is fierce rivalry. I do not rate the attacks of a commercial rival. The threat to this industry comes externally from Trillion Dollar technology companies that are competing for its business. To stand still or hope to continue to do things as they always have been done is not an option.”

West thanked Costello for his contribution to Nine for over a decade, including his eight years as chairman.

She said: “On behalf of the board I want to thank Peter for his dedication and commitment to Nine. Peter has led the transformation of Nine from a free to air network to a fully integrated media company with traditional and digital media assets across television, streaming publishing, audio and marketplaces. As chairman, he has always put the needs of the company first and his decision to stand down and pass on the baton of leading Nine at this time is in line with that approach.

“The board knows that the events of recent weeks have been extremely difficult and de-stabilising for our employees and other stakeholders and we are committed to ensuring, through our cultural review and other actions announced last week, that issues will be appropriately addressed,” she continued.

“The board and management are united in focusing on the well-being of our people in all parts of our business. At Nine, we do work that has an important value to the community and the board and management acknowledge their responsibility to ensure all parts of business, including our newsrooms, feel supported. We want to ensure our people can feel proud of our company and colleagues and the work they do.”

In the ASX announcement, Nine said the board recognises action and accountability are required to maintain trust, and it is united with management to focus on the wellbeing of its people across the business.

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