The third floor of Nine Network’s Willoughby headquarters in Sydney is starting to resemble a scene from the movie Cocoon – the one where a bunch of old folks, led by Don Ameche, are re-energised by a swimming pool full of mysterious stuff that’s maintained by wise and benign aliens. Returning Nine boss Sam Chisholm is back with a cast of oldies: Vicki Jones, Lynton Taylor, Bruce Dunlop. When will we see the likes of Ian Cook, Bruce Robertson?

Sam’s back in the chair and he’s loving it, strutting about, chest out, looking like a bantam who knows he’s the Big Rooster. He left the Nine bunker at Willoughby at 5:30 on Monday afternoon after spending the afternoon reassuring the troops that life will go on regardless of what happens. In a highly significant move, he left the building talking to old mate, Vicki Jones, who has been back at Nine since early 2003 as Network Stylist and running the on-air look. Jones was a Chisholm stalwart in the days when he ruled the roost at Nine from 1975 to 1990.

On his first day, Sam met production heads at 10am to discuss Nine’s production and program inventory position. More meetings in the afternoon. Nine’s head of Lifestyle and Reality, Stuart Clark, injected a note on unreality by circulating an email urging staff to take it calmly and steady.

The blasts from the past are designed to help Nine through the present crisis as the search for a new CEO goes on. Head hunters have been employed but Sam’s contact book is probably a better resource.

Another interesting name has popped up in discussions: Ten TV boss, John McAlpine. Industry sources suggest his contract is up soon, so there’s a window of opportunity for Sam Chisholm to strike.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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