Peter Costello resigns as Nine chairman

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 9 June 2024
Peter Costello and Mike Sneesby

Peter Costello has resigned as chairman and as a director of Nine Entertainment, ending 11 years on the board of the media group.

This follows reports he allegedly knocked a reporter to the ground at Canberra Airport while being questioned about a sexual harassment issue at Nine.

Catherine West, the deputy chair who has been on the board since 2016, takes over as chair, effective immediately. She has been working with a search firm to refresh the board of directors.

"The board has been supportive through the events of the last month and last few days in particular," Costello said in a statement.

"But going forward I think they need a new chair to unite them around a fresh vision and someone with the energy to lead to that vision for the next decade."

Costello said CEO Mike Sneesby always had his full support and Nine had set up a robust process to investigate historical complaints.

Nine has launched an external review of its newsroom culture following allegations of abuse of power and “drunken, lecherous behaviour”. 

Costello, a former Liberal federal treasurer, made veiled comment on reporting from rival media about Nine. 

"The new chair will require full support from all directors as this is an industry where there is fierce rivalry," said Costello.

"I do not rate the attacks of a commercial rival.

"The threat to this industry comes externally from trillion dollar technology companies that are competing for its business. To stand still or hope to continue to do things as they always have been done is not an option."

West, the new chair, said the events of recent weeks had been extremely difficult and de-stabilising for employees and other stakeholders.

"We are committed to ensuring, through our cultural review and other actions announced last week, that issues will be appropriately addressed," she said.

“The Board and management are united in focusing on the well-being of our people in all parts of our business.

"At Nine, we do work that has an important value to the community and the board and management acknowledge their responsibility to ensure all parts of business, including our newsrooms, feel supported.

"We want to ensure our people can feel proud of our company and colleagues and the work they do.”

Costello said he joined Nine in 2013 when it was in the hands of distressed credit funds which brought him in to help with capital reconstruction and listing on the ASX.

He outlined achievements: 
- Made Nine a national free-to-air network by acquiring stations in Adelaide and Perth; 
- Established STAN as an Australian subscription streaming service which runs at a profit;
- Acquired a publication division with mastheads including The SMH, The Age, The AFR;
- Acquired full ownership of a national talk radio network;
- Acquired a majority interest in Domain.

"I wish the board, the employees and the company well," he said.

"There are enormous challenges ahead but I believe NEC (Nine) is the best placed Australian media company to weather them and prosper."

Nine is keeping costs tight, expecting more falls in advertising spend in the current June quarter, last month describing  the current operating environment as "challenging".

Nine reported falls in revenue and profit in a "weak" advertising market for the half year to December.

Revenue fell 2% to $1.37 billion in the six months. Net profit after tax was down 21% to $149.5 million

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