Nine Network CEO Eddie McGuire announced his resignation this morning. It’s been a long time coming.
McGuire’s problems began with the Mark Llewellyn affidavit and the stupid case (in which Crikey and I were defendants) brought by the Nine Network to block publication of it and get all the copies back.
That cost the best part of $100,000 or more in legal costs and caused reputational damage to Nine and McGuire. And all because of one unfortunate line in the document, the one where Eddie apparently asked whether it was time to “radically redefine the employment status” of Today Show host, Jessica Rowe.
He’s always denied it, as recently at this morning on 2GB in an interview with Alan Jones in fact. But despite the denials his reign at Nine was defined by that one comment and a clumsy, blokey choice of words.
That affidavit was sworn after Nine tried to cut Llewellyn’s pay and then terminated him; he sued for unfair dismissal and won. Llewellyn was replaced as Nine News and Current Affairs boss by Gary Linnell, a favourite of the real power at Nine, PBL CEO John Alexander.
At the same time that Linnell was appointed, job cuts of up to 100 were announced at Nine, mostly in News and Current Affairs. The cuts looked like they were down to Eddie even though the decision was actually taken by Alexander and others at the Park Street HQ of PBL.
From then on, reports speculating about McGuire’s resignation became more frequent.
In October PBL sold 50% of PBL Media (mostly the Nine Network and ACP Magazines) to private equity group CVC Asia (associated with Citigroup and CVC of Europe).
A new management structure was named and a new board: Ian law was promoted from CEO of ACP Magazines to head of PBL Media. Eddie stayed at the top of Nine but reported to Law instead of Alexander and James Packer as before.
McGuire had been demoted.
The stories of his unhappiness and unease at what was going on persisted through into late November-early December last year and reached a crescendo and he was ordered not to talk to the media by PBL Management.
The stories subsided until last February, around the anniversary of his appointment, and then reached a new level in April when former Nine CEO David Gyngell arrived back in Australia on a private trip and was seen talking to James Packer.
Gyngell denied any interest and indicated he would not be returning because of the presence of John Alexander as chairman of PBL Media and CEO of PBL.
Then two weeks ago, PBL split itself into two companies: gambling based in Crown and media based in Consolidated Media Holdings. Alexander would be executive chairman, James Packer deputy and Ian Law CEO. There was no role for McGuire and he had been pushed further down the pecking order, marginalised once again.
Rumours resurfaced of his discontent as he spent the next week in Melbourne on Collingwood matters. Nine was peripheral, although he found time to front his mates on the AFL Footy Show where he said he would rather see Collingwood win a premiership than see Nine win the ratings.
And then came the ultimate indignity: yesterday’s announcement from Nine. There was no replacement for McGuire. None was needed. He was merely “switching roles”.
McGuire is staying on to do 1 vs 100 and there are reports his private company has secured the Australian rights to the program, rights now held by Endemol Southern Star.
McGuire was taping the programs in Melbourne this afternoon, fielding the press between takes. In the end McGuire had come home to where he felt safe and appreciated (although he will be living in Sydney “for a while” as he told Alan Jones on 2GB).
It was only a week ago today that Eddie told Neil Mitchell on 3AW in Melbourne that he hadn’t heard anything about an employment repositioning:
NEIL MITCHELL: So will you be there into the new financial year as chief executive?
EDDIE MCGUIRE: I expect to be, yeah. What, have you heard something?
NEIL MITCHELL: Yeah.
EDDIE MCGUIRE: Oh [laughs].
NEIL MITCHELL: Yeah, I’ve heard you’ve agreed to go at the end of the financial year.
Mitchell was on the money.