Haslingden steps down as Nine chair

David Haslingden has stepped down from his post as chairman and non-executive director at Australia’s Nine Entertainment Company.

Peter Costello, currently an independent, non-executive director, will take over as chairman, effective March 1.

This comes soon after Hugh Marks succeeded David Gyngell as CEO of Nine Entertainment, which owns Australian commercial channel Nine Network.

Former Fox network boss Haslingden took the chair in 2013, and subsequently oversaw a major company restructuring and public market float.

Haslingden launched his own production group after stepping down as president and COO of Fox Networks Group in August 2012. Controlled through his investment firm RACAT, the group owns NHNZ, Beach House Pictures, Northern Pictures and Keshet Australia, the latter through a joint venture with Israel’s Keshet International.

Haslingden today noted his own company now employed more than 250 full-time staff, and added: “The time is right for me to move on from NEC, leaving the Company with a new Chief Executive and a best-in-sector balance sheet; a modern content business ideally placed to embark upon the challenges of the next phase of sector evolution.”

Further changes announced at Nine this week see Elizabeth Gaines of Australian firm Helloworld joining the board as non-executive independent director. She will chair Nine Entertainment’s audit and risk committee, taking over from Costello.

“This is an exciting time of change in the media sector and NEC is now strongly positioned to take advantage of these developments,” said Costello, who is a former government treasurer.

Australia’s media sector is preparing itself for a period of mergers and acquisitions after it emerged the current government may relax media ownerships rules.

“You have to think that media consolidation is one of the possible things that can happen in the industry and I think Peter has the gravitas we need in that context,” Nine CEO Marks told the Sydney Morning Herald. “His ability to be an influential player in that space will be outstanding.”

“He did run the country’s finances and he runs the country’s largest fund [he is chairman of the board of guardians of the Future Fund]. I reckon he knows a thing or two about economics and long-term agendas and the creation of wealth and all the sort of things we need to focus on.”

The news came as Nine Entertainment posted half-year results to the December 31, 2015, that showed EBITDA of A$127.9 million (US$91.7 million), compared with A$135 million in the same period in the first half of financial year 2015, and revenues of A$690 million, also down year-on-year. Net profit after tax was A$78.4 million, compared with A$83.5 million in 2015.

Mark’s described the 2016 result as “a solid result in what has been a challenging advertising market”.