Over the past six years, Crikey has been the biggest critic of Eddie
McGuire, but that hasn’t stopped us from predicting and endorsing his
ascension to the top job at Channel Nine – tipped to be announced officially during Nine’s
6pm news tonight.

Eddie has been a shocker on things like conflict of interest over the years, but he is still the perfect choice
to run the network and not only because James Packer wants to rein in Channel Nine
and Eddie is a close mate. While Eddie was both a MoJ (mate of James) and a MoK (mate of Kerry),
the more important consideration is that he’ll also do a good job as CEO.

At
its core, television is about producing compelling content, attracting
mass audiences and persuading corporates to pay large sums to share
those eye-balls. Eddie knows all about that. At Collingwood, he
took the level of corporate sponsorship and fundraising to a new high
for any sporting club in Australia.

Television networks crave publicity and public attention and Eddie is
already demonstrating that his appointment is putting the network front
and centre in the public consciousness.

The cult of Eddie’s celebrity will attract talent and advertisers to
Nine. Faceless corporate types will pay even more advertising dollars
if they get to schmooze with Eddie in the corporate box at the Grand
Prix. And Eddie is the master schmoozer who has the biggest network in
Melbourne, dwarfing the likes of Peter Costello and Dick Pratt.

The question of Eddie lacking management experience is also
rubbish. If being President of Collingwood doesn’t give you management
experience, what does? He has also been in business for years with his
brother Frank running McGuire Media and has made numerous other
investments with the likes of Steve Vizard in companies like Sportsview.

Running Channel Nine is all about negotiating big contracts with high
profile people and companies. For instance, Nine has taken a bath on
its Commonwealth Games contract and someone like Eddie would be well
placed to kick Melbourne 2006 chairman Ron Walker around for a
renegotiation.

Finally, don’t think Eddie will stop his ascension once he’s CEO of
Nine. His brother Frank was best man at his wedding and is a highly
ambitious political operator who was a press secretary for John Cain in
the 1980s and was Natasha Stott Despoja’s senior adviser during most of
her time as leader of the Democrats.

It was Frank who drove Eddie’s successful election to the 1998
Constitutional Convention and it will be Frank who dreams the dream of
Eddie one day residing in The Lodge as a Labor prime minister. Don’t
laugh. You heard it here first folks.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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