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Nine chairman Costello makes sudden exit as network culture under scrutiny

The tumult at Australia’s free-to-air broadcasters continues to spiral with the abrupt resignation today of Nine Entertainment’s chairman Peter Costello, who is stepping down with immediate effect.

Peter Costello

Current board director Catherine West has been appointed the new chair for Nine Entertainment.

Costello, a former politician and decade-long executive steward at Nine who held the chairman role for eight years, has departed amid leadership and code of conduct issues at the network.

The issues escalated in recent days as Costello was accused of allegedly pushing a journalist from a rival network during a media doorstep at Canberra airport. Costello has denied any wrongdoing in the incident and the journalist has not pressed charges.

In statements today, Nine Network and Costello said the reason for the change in chair was due to succession planning, which had been in process since late last year as Costello had flagged he would be retiring “sometime after the July Olympics and by the AGM in November at the latest.”

Catherine West

Costello said: “I thank the board for their support over the last decade and particularly during the events of the last few weeks. I wish the board, the employees and the company well. There are enormous challenges ahead, but I believe Nine is the best placed Australian media company to weather them and prosper.”

In Costello’s exiting media statement, he set out to clarify some current issues, regarding Nine CEO Mike Sneesby and the ongoing scrutiny of Nine’s workplace culture.

“I would like to place a few facts on the record. Mr Sneesby has always had my full support as CEO. The company has set up a robust process to investigate historical complaints, which has my full support. I believe it will get to the bottom of any unknown issues,” he said.

He added a note to journalists: “I will not be doing any interviews or commenting further on any issues this weekend so no need to maintain vigil outside my home.”

Mike Sneesby

West commended the exiting chair on his service and steering the media entity through key milestones including the launch of Stan, the takeover of most of the assets of publishing house Fairfax Media, and the relisting on the Australian Stock Exchange.

“As chairman, he has always put the needs of the company first and his decision to stand down and pass on the baton of leading Nine at this time is in line with that approach,” West said.

West is a 30-year veteran of the media and entertainment industry working across the UK, Europe and Australia. Addressing the current HR and cultural issues at the network, she affirmed that they would be investigated.

“The board knows the events of recent weeks have been extremely difficult and de-stabilising for our employees and other stakeholders and we are committed to ensuring, through our cultural review and other actions announced last week, that issues will be appropriately addressed.”

“The board recognises action and accountability are required to maintain trust. The board and management are united in focusing on the well-being of our people in all parts of the business,” the board of directors of Nine said in a statement.

In other executive changes, Mickie Rosen has been appointed to the Audit and Risk Committee and Mandy Pattinson will become the chair of the People and Remuneration Committee.

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