Is the PBL Media-Microsoft joint venture, ninemsn, about to lose its second CEO in a year?

Chat around the HQ in downtown Sydney is that ninemsn CEO Tony Faure has resigned or is about to – after less than 12 months in the job.

He was named last July to the post to replace Martin Hoffman who announced his departure from ninemsn in may 2006.

If Faure is indeed leaving who will replace him?

One candidate could be Max Uechtritz, the former head of Nine Network’s news and Current Affairs operations and before that the holder of the same job at the ABC.

Uechtritz, was named as Managing Editor of ninemsn last November. he is a favourite of PBL deputy chairman, Chris Anderson and PBL Media Executive chairman, John Alexander.

A statement last November said “Uechtritz will be responsible for the editorial voice of ninemsn’s homepage and news and current affairs services and will report to Tony Faure, ninemsn’s Chief Executive Officer.”

Meanwhile, more problems at Telstra’s Sensis business: that’s the one responsible for Yellow Pages and the directories business, the thing that is supposed to be the Telco’s new media edge.

It is and it isn’t. There were delays with the Melbourne Yellow Pages that caused an earnings and profit disruption for Sensis and Telstra’s in the December half and now John King, Sensis Classifieds CEO has resigned.

Advertising revenues for the website business are rising and this is cutting into the directories business. But the online revenues are not large enough to offset an overall decline in revenues. According to the Monday Australian Financial Review, this will cut the contribution Sensis makes to Telstra earnings in the year to June and in the second half of the year.

Classified ads is where Sensis was supposed to be going to scoop the pool, based on its Yellow Pages business and the $636 million purchase of the classified ad newspaper Trading Post, several years ago.

Sales of the Trading Post have fallen from before the Telstra purchase: in some newsagencies the stacks are down 30 to 40 per cent.

More people are using online websites to buy products rather than traditional print classifieds.

Besides Mr King several other senior executives in the area are said to have also resigned.

Sensis Classifieds Trading Post in particular has been losing it’s best talent for several months now.

Sensis sources say the company’s much trumpeted “business transformation” is not working with poor decision making and execution of strategy.

One example is the company’s ill-conceived local print and online classifieds project www.nearme.com.au that has just gone $1million dollars into the red.

Peter Fray

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