SYDNEY – Nine Entertainment CEO David Gyngell is set to return to a more hands-on role at the Nine Network, with the announcement Tuesday that Jeffrey Browne is stepping down as managing director on Aug. 1, after seven years at Nine. Browne has been managing director at the network since Nov. 2010.
Browne’s departure follows a pivotal period of major programming contract renewals for Nine and the network's capital city expansion, the success of which Gyngell credits to Browne.
Those deals include a $1 billion rights deal shared with Fox Sports for the National Rugby League competition, a new five-year broadcast rights deal with Cricket Australia for international and domestic cricket, estimated to be worth $80 million a year, and the acquisition of Nine’s affiliate station, NWS Adelaide from WIN Television for a reported $340 million.
“I’ll miss him not only as a robust and talented managing director, but the best deal closer in the business, a friend and simply a terrific bloke. He leaves us in a much stronger position than when he came on board, which is a fitting tribute,” Gyngell said.
Nine is the top rated network across the key 25-54 and 18-49 demographics and has built up its overall audience this year thanks to the success of franchises like The Voice, The Block and a reboot of Big Brother.
Browne said he’d given his future a great deal of thought in recent months, and believed the time was right to move on and take up some different business challenges.
However, he will remain involved with Nine Entertainment Co. in a part time role in the position of executive director of commercial.
“I am gratified I’ve made this decision when Nine is in such a strong position -- not only through the re-signing of the crucial sporting rights and related deals, but when our programming is performing better than at any other time since I began here,” Browne said in a statement.
“I have many people to thank for their great support, professionalism and friendship but first amongst equals is David Gyngell, who deserves my special thanks," Browne added. "He is and has always been a motivating spirit, a true friend and a person for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration. Nine could not be in better hands. ”
All of Browne’s staff will now report to Gyngell. The Nine Entertainment Co. CEO can now turn his attention back to the network after securing the company’s future last year with a restructuring of its shareholder base to include U.S. hedge funds Apollo and Oaktree Capital and new financing arrangements, which brought the company back from the brink of insolvency. Nine also sold its ACP Magazines arm to Bauer Media.
Next on the deal slate for the network is the acquisition of its Perth affiliate station, for which it has a deal with WIN Corp. However, Nine has to wait to finalize that deal until the government turns over the current 75 percent reach rule which prevents networks from broadcasting to more than 75 percent of the population. It is unlikely to be repealed until after this years federal election.