No.9: Kim Williams (CEO, News Limited). Kim Williams is the boss of News Ltd, which publishes two-thirds of Australia’s metropolitan newspapers and more than 120 suburban or regional titles. We don’t need to tell you how powerful it makes him.
But we reckon playing second fiddle to Rupert Murdoch must be a tough gig for the one-time composer, given Rupert’s appointed himself chairman of the board and the fact that Williams, a former pay-TV boss, likes doing everything himself.
The Power Index understands from people who have worked closely with Williams that he is a “micromanager” and a “control freak” who insists on delaying even the most trivial decisions and campaigns until he has signed off on them.
He’s also got friends in high places and is a world-class schmoozer. His second wife, Catherine Dovey (his first was Kathy Lette), is the daughter of Labor god, Gough Whitlam, while Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer are two of his biggest fans.
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The opera-loving Williams (who was a very successful chairman of the Sydney Opera House) is as different from his predecessor — the cheery, beery, blokey John Hartigan — as you could possibly get. But he’s tough enough to handle News’ monumental challenge — making readers pay for content online that they once received for free. — Paul Barry
No.8: David Thodey (CEO, Telstra). In just three years as Telstra chief, David Thodey’s been able to mend fences with customers and suppliers, and even with both political sides.
Now, he wants Telstra to get bigger, having recently indicated he’s after “selective M&A” in three areas: Asia, cloud computing and media. He’s still slashing the business where needed, as he did recently when he announced the $660 million sale of the loss-making, NZ-based TelstraClear to Vodafone.
Thodey has positioned Telstra (which could easily have been left in the dark ages with the advent of the Labor government’s National Broadband Network) to take advantage of Australia’s largest infrastructure project in decades.
And with the help of chair Catherine Livingstone, he’s negotiated a way to rid Telstra of its soon-to-be-redundant copper network, and make billions of dollars in the process.
Knowing a small miracle is required to see Labor win the next election, Thodey’s also playing both sides of politics. In April, he labelled the Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node plans as “advantageous” to Telstra given the rollout would still permit Telstra to cash in by using its infrastructure — perhaps even faster than via Conroy’s plan.
Described as straight-up, personable and true-to-his word, the Perth-born CEO has an uncanny ability to negotiate and quietly meet every individual in any given room.
Thodey also swings his power internally, using facts and figures to back his calls on performance. If a division isn’t up to scratch, he’ll scratch out its leader. Still, he’s managed to restructure the business — making, at times, sweeping redundancies — and not emerge universally hated by employees, unions and the media in the process. — Angela Priestley