Is there a destabilisation campaign underway against Nine CEO Eddie McGuire that is being orchestrated from within the PBL empire?

This story in yesterday’s SMH is the most public manifestation of the campaign so far:

Management at the highest levels of at least five media groups have been trading talk in recent weeks about the tenure of Nine’s chief executive Eddie McGuire, and as the scuttlebutt goes, McGuire tendered his resignation to PBL in November but was knocked back.

The claim that he offered his resignation last month is highly damaging and presumably McGuire didn’t leak the claim. If true, it could only have come from the person to whom the resignation offer was made, or someone close to them.

They would include James Packer, John Alexander or Ian Law. Eddie reports to all of them as head of Nine.

Nine and McGuire are naturally refusing to say anything, so why did Eddie’s immediate boss Ian Law comment in The Australian this morning?:

“Eddie is making a fine contribution to Nine and I’m looking forward to working with him in 2007 and beyond,” Mr Law said.

By saying this, Law gave the story legs and allowed it to run for an extra day. And he didn’t deny, or at least wasn’t quoted as denying, that Eddie had offered his resignation, which was the most damaging part of the whole story.

The SMH story was based on a false premise anyway and one they knew about:

Former Nine boss David Gyngell is in town next week from Los Angeles, and he already has some highly placed media executives filled with intrigue.

For two weeks, Gyngell has been quietly scouting the Australian market from abroad about the contractual availability of a few TV executives. The big question is why?

Gyngell is coming back with his wife, Leila McKinnon who will be hosting ACA from Christmas into most of January while Tracy Grimshaw is on holidays.

Gyngell is now a big wheel in the world TV market; running the ITV (Granada) TV program production business in the US means he is by far better known for this than running the Nine Network in Australia.

Gyngell will be working for Sir Michael Grade who has just defected to be executive chairman of ITV from the BBC. There is more upside for Gyngell from hanging around Grade than returning to the embrace of Park Street and James Packer.

In his present job he gets to talk to all the networks in Australia and in the US, Mexico and Europe. Why would he want to return to Sydney and the treacherous swamp that is the Nine Network? He knows the lie of the land and knows the people who frustrated him when he was running at Nine.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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