Media industry insiders believe it is a two horse race to succeed Hugh Marks as Nine chief executive, with Stan boss Mike Sneesby and Chris Janz, the company’s head of publishing and digital, the leading contenders. But others are still expected to but their hands up for what is one of the biggest jobs in Australian media.
An executive search firm is likely to be appointed to identify potential candidates, but Mr Marks said he is confident there are a number of people inside the business who could take on the job.
“There’s all sorts of opportunities…to develop people and that’s what I’ve certainly tried to do quite aggressively certainly over the last few years, so there are a number of people who can do the job,” Mr Marks said. “[The decision] will be up to the board. It won’t be my decision, obviously. I want all of my children to be equally successful.”
Stan was jointly owned by Nine and Fairfax Media before the $4 billion merger in 2018. The 46-year-old, who has an electrical engineering degree, was brought in to launch the business by former Nine boss David Gyngell. While he has limited experience working in a newsroom and in advertising sales, he understands video and digital – both large parts of the Nine business.
Mr Sneesby joined Stan after running ecommerce joint venture, Cudo, which was owned by Microsoft and Nine until 2013, but was also the vice president of IPTV in Dubai and led corporate strategy and business development at ninesmsn (now nine.com.au).
In five years he has built Stan’s subscriber base to more than 2 million through securing large content deals with US companies such as ViacomCBS, Disney and more recently NBC Universal. Analysts value Stan between $500 million and $700 million and it is considered one of Nine’s most important and best performing assets. It generated almost $250 million in revenue last financial year – 12 per cent of Nine’s total revenue – and made an 8 per cent contribution to the company’s operating earnings.
Mr Sneesby and Mr Marks announced the streaming service would start broadcasting live sport last week, a move which was possible because of Stan’s strong performance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Janz was one of the only executives at Fairfax Media join the leadership team after the merger of the two companies. He is currently responsible for more than 25 per cent of Nine’s operating earnings.
The 40-year-old began his career in a newsroom and was one of the first editors of News Corp website news.com.au. While he lacks extensive experience in broadcasting (he was deputy supervising producer at Endemol Southern Star on Big Brother), Janz has a strong background in digital as the founder of Allure Media, which held the licences for websites such as Gizmodo, Business Insider and Popsugar in Australia. It was bought by Fairfax Media and then absorbed into Nine under Pedestrian Group.
Janz is widely regarded as one of the key players in the revival of Fairfax Media, turning a legacy newspaper business into one of the best performing parts of Nine. Earlier this year he took responsibility of broadcast video service 9Now, giving him more exposure to the broadcasting side of the company.
Lizzie Young has worked for Nine over more than a decade and is currently in charge of Nine’s commercial partnerships and state-based managing directors.
Ms Young has extensive experience working in the commercial part of broadcasting companies and is also a non-executive director of real estate listings company Domain, which is majority owned by Nine.
The 44-year-old started her career working for regional television and radio business Southern Cross Austereo in Queensland before moving to the United Kingdom where she worked for commercial radio group Global Radio. She’s expected to throw her hat in the ring because of her extensive experience working in broadcasting and her role as one of Mr Marks’ key reports.
She joined Nine in 2010 as a director of client innovation strategy and partnerships and has been evolved into multiple strategic and commercial roles before being promoted again earlier this year.
Michael Stephenson is currently chief sales officer at Nine and has spent his entire career working in the commercial divisions of Australia’s television companies – Nine, Seven West Media and Network Ten.
While he has only recently been exposed to managing print advertising revenue, he is widely considered one of the best performing sales executives in the industry and was key in growing Nine’s share of commercial television revenue. Mr Stephenson’s experience working in television extends to both Seven and Network Ten.
The 47-year-old started at Ninemsn as director of sales in 2006 before moving into Nine’s television broadcast sales division and becoming chief sales officer in 2016.
Since the merger of Nine and Fairfax Media, the 47-year-old has led the group’s sales team, which has given him more insight into how the sell ads in newspapers, digital websites and radio. Advertising revenue climbed slightly to $1.5 billion last financial year from $1.48 billion.
Like Mr Janz, Mr Malone has a background in broadcasting and also in a newsroom. The 41-year-old currently leads Nine’s radio division which includes Sydney’s 2GB, Melbourne’s 3AW and Brisbane 4BC, a role which he took over the role after the media company bought the remaining 45.5 per cent of Macquarie Media last year. Mr Malone started his career as a federal political correspondent for 2UE in Canberra.
He has spent the last 14 years at Nine, including four years as director of sport. The role involved securing broadcast deals with the NRL and Netball Australia as well as ending a four decade relationship with the cricket and securing the rights for The Australian Open tennis.
Mr Malone is still relatively new to his role in radio but has already made some major changes to the lineup. 2GB breakfast host Alan Jones is no longer on air and other well-known media figures such as Deborah Knight, Neil Breen and Russel Howcroft have joined the Nine radio ranks.
The media industry has changed dramatically in the last few years and it has meant that there are several former executives that are not currently in media jobs. There are also several former television executives such as Network Ten’s former chief executive Paul Anderson and Seven’s former chief executive Tim Worner are not working in the industry. Former SBS boss Mike Ebeid, who resigned from his most recent job as head of Telstra Enterprise more than two weeks ago, could also be a good fit considering his background in television and radio and his involvement in launching SBS On Demand.
Scott Lorson, chief executive of subscription service Fetch TV, has also been publicly floated as a contender. He was previously chief executive of ACP Magazines (now Are Media) and held several roles at Optus.
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