McIntyre: Fairfax's Ed Harrison in the ring as News Ltd's new sales boss

Paul McIntyre
By Paul McIntyre | 22 November 2012
AdNews editor-in-chief Paul McIntyre.

The sudden resignation of News Limited's widely regarded sales boss and board director Tony Kendall has triggered plenty of speculation about why and who will replace him.

Interestingly there is intense conjecture around Fairfax Metro Media’s commercial director Ed Harrison – some internal banter at News Limited has him high on the wish list as News Limited faces-up to the harsh realignment of its print and digital assets which Fairfax has already copped plenty of pain over.

There is a view that News Limited’s digital strategy with its  paywalls and the like is facing serious headwinds and that a reworking of the strategy is coming. Whoever the new regime picks to replace Kendall, they want the candidate to have strong digital capabilities.

“Harrison is the one they want,” one insider told me today. “They’re red hot for Ed Harrison but I don’t reckon he’ll go. It will be a pretty thankless task.”  

There’s also another “Ed” said to be on the News Limited agenda – Foxtel’s marketing top dog Ed Smith, who was previously at News Limited in the same role.

Although both “Eds” are rated and said to be wanted by News Limited, there is plenty of doubt about whether either would take the job.

The same goes for MCN chief executive Anthony Fitzgerald who is another name being thrown about. Fitzgerald is a career TV guy but is close to News Ltd chairman Kim Williams and is considered an astute operator. But it would take Fitzgerald out of a growth company into a defensive play. The attraction might be an advertising pot of around $2 billion versus $400 million where he is now.

Along with those “outside” names of course are current News Limited executives – Kendall’s deputy Fiorella di Santo is an obvious leading candidate but even NewsLifeMedia’s CEO Nicole Sheffield is being thrown around as a possible – both are said to be rated by Williams.

It will be interesting to see where Kendall ends-up – some are already saying he would have been a good option as Ten Network’s sales chief.

Certainly one of the biggest marketing names in the country, Telstra CMO Mark Buckman was quick to publicly back Kendall’s nous.

Buckman wrote in the online readers comments yesterday of AdNews’ breaking news story on Kendall: “Tony Kendall has been THE man amongst men in the ad sales world and a true and valued partner to marketers and their brands. He has brought innovation to an often staid business and driven outstanding outcomes for his business (and mine). I will miss working with Tony at News and hope that we get to continue breaking new ground in the future. Congratulations on a great career.”

That’s a decent wrap.

So, a day after Kendall’s resignation went public, that’s some of the conjecture and names circling the market. The coming weeks will no doubt throw up a few more – some will be impressively wayward and others close to the core. We wait.

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