On Friday the 7th of December, after months of due process the merger between Nine Entertainment co. and Fairfax Media was offocially completed and updated on the ASX.
Despite the merger now being past the point of no return it is still a fluid situation as the team at Nine led by Hugh Marks navigates the new landscape.
Today it was announced that Nine has moved to align its newly combined sales structure in order to create fully integrated marketing solutions for its partners across television, video on demand, digital publishing and print.
Under the new integrated sales structure Nine will co-locate all of the 500-plus sales staff from Nine and Fairfax into its Nine sales offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. This process is expected to be completed by early January.
Along with this, below is a summary of the key stories that have begun to unfold in the fallout of the Nine/Fairfax merger:
Hugh Marks’s Nine holds its ground over Macquarie Media
The boss of the newly enlarged Nine, Hugh Marks, has poured cold water on market speculation that the group will pay $110 million, or $2 a share, for John Singleton’s 32% stake in radio group Macquarie Media, saying there is “no way” he will pay that much for it, reports The Australian’s Nick Tabakoff.
However, in an extended interview with The Australian to mark the official start of the Nine-Fairfax merger, Marks has revealed he remains in direct contact with Singleton about cleaning up his stake and that of other minorities in the group.
“I’ve known Singo for a long time,” he said. “I wouldn’t necessarily call them negotiations, but obviously we’ve been talking.”
In other revelations through the interview, Marks also:
• Gave Nine’s strongest public backing yet to Macquarie’s top broadcaster, Alan Jones (whose contract expires next June), dubbing him “fantastic”, in the face of media claims Jones could be on the way out.
• Committed for the foreseeable future to maintaining weekday editions of Fairfax’s daily newspapers, including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review. However, he added that print advertising would be a much smaller component of the enlarged group.
And now the merger is complete, will Nine immediately move to tear down Fairfax signs?
Apparently not. “Everyone wants to know (about the signs),” Marks said. “There’s a bit of work to come, including council permissions. Don’t send any papps down any time soon!”
Nine’s Hugh Marks wants to invest in and strengthen distinct voices
Everyone said there is a complete difference in culture, and there are differences, don’t get me wrong, between Fairfax and Nine in culture, but it’s more of a corporate difference,” Hugh Marks says sitting in his office on at Nine’s Willoughby headquarters in Sydney. The Nine boss and his senior corporate team will also set up desks in the now-former Fairfax offices in Pyrmont where they expect to spend a lot of time ahead of a 2020 move to North Sydney, reports The AFR’s Max Mason.
Marks will address his new workforce in Sydney on Monday and Melbourne on Wednesday for the first time as their CEO and is likely to hammer home the message that he wants to invest more in journalism and content, with a focus on keeping and enhancing the distinct voices of each of the newsrooms now in his charge.
There are likely be some changes to the assets Nine holds. The Financial Review revealed in July Fairfax’s regional and New Zealand businesses were on the table as non-core assets for Nine to offload. Marks says it’s a bit early [to discuss].
Hugh Marks Nine boss flags divestments in matter of ‘months’
Nine Entertainment Co chief executive Hugh Marks will move quickly to cement the full control of radio network Macquarie Media and offload other assets that do not focus on national advertisers, mass audiences and digital subscriptions, reports The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jennifer Duke.
This plan means a likely sale of the regional publishing business Australian Community Media.
“What we do well as a business is working with national advertisers,” Marks said, “We will be trying to move to that new model.”
New Zealand business Stuff and The Canberra Times are both within the ACM division. The Canberra title had previously been owned by the publishing division that runs The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The AFR.
Marks said he “wouldn’t discount” a spin-off of the ACM business into a separately listed business, or a sale to private equity or public company.
“Regional Australia is a bloody good market, with very loyal readers and local advertisers,” Marks said, “It’s a different market.”