Key appointments in Nine-Fairfax merger revealed

Nine is expected to outline the new structure of Australia’s new largest media company in the coming days, following final court approval of its merger with Fairfax Media last week.

Key senior executive appointments are expected to include Greg Barnes as chief financial officer, Alexi Baker as head of strategy and corporate development and Rachel Launders as general counsel and company secretary, who are coming from the Nine side.

Fairfax’s Chris Janz is expected to be elevated to take control of publishing across the combined group, while Nine’s Michael Healy will remain TV boss.

Nine’s Michael Stephenson is tipped to be named chief sales officer of the combined group, alongside Lizzie Young as head of Powered, which sits between sales and content to help develop integrations for advertising clients, which will be expanded across the group.

Fairfax events boss Martin Jolly is expected to stay on. The future of the division is believed to have not been decided yet, but splitting it off from editorial would be a complicated endeavour. Street Talk revealed last week that speaking events group Saxton submitted an expression of interest for Fairfax’s events business.

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Fairfax’s Allen Williams is expected to remain as managing director of Australian Community Media and Sinead Boucher tipped to stay on as CEO of Stuff, Fairfax’s New Zealand business. However, The Australian Financial Review revealed in July Fairfax’s regional and NZ businesses were on the table as non-core assets for Nine to offload.

Stan, Domain and Macquarie Media leadership will remain unchanged, being headed by Mike Sneesby, Jason Pellegrino and Adam Lang respectively. Domain and Macquarie are separately listed businesses, but will be majority owned by Nine once the new business begins on December 10.

Leaving Fairfax upon completion of the merger will be CEO Greg Hywood, CFO David Housego, general counsel Gail Hambly, group director of strategy and corporate development Dhruv Gupta and human resources boss Michelle Williams.

Nine CEO Hugh Marks was flagged to run the combined business when the merger was announced in July.

Nine and Fairfax declined to comment.

Over the weekend, REA Group announced the poaching of Domain chief marketing and content officer Melina Cruickshank. She was expected to take on a larger role in the combined group.

Nine is also soon to outline $50 million of cost savings across technology, media sales and back office costs.

It is expected fewer than 100 individuals will be impacted by the cost-cutting across the country. The combined business is expected to have more than 8000 employees.

Fairfax and Nine have repeatedly stated none of the cost cuts will come from reducing the amount of journalists or from merging newsrooms.

About $45 million of the synergies, in tranches of $15 million each, will come out of the technology and product divisions, for example by using and developing common tech platforms, the media sales teams and commercial operations divisions, and corporate and support functions, which include roles such as management, audit, head office, human resources, marketing, property services and ASX compliance.

“We identified $50 million worth of synergies and we put two big companies corporately together. None of those synergies have come out of the area of journalism; they’ve come out of the area of the operations of getting efficiencies for our shareholders, to enable the strength of the balance sheet to support the growth of what’s important to consumers,” Fairfax chairman Nick Falloon, who will be deputy chair of the new Nine, said following the shareholder vote two weeks ago.

The Federal Court last week approved the Nine-Fairfax scheme of arrangement, paving the way for final implementation on December 7. The combined group, to be called Nine, will begin on December 10.

The merged entity will bring together Nine’s television and digital assets with Fairfax’s publishing portfolio, 54.5 per cent of radio business Macquarie Media, 60 per cent of real estate classifieds business Domain and would see subscription video on-demand service Stan, which has been a 50-50 partnership between the two companies, owned by one group.

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