Nine dealmaker bows out
Jeff Browne, who by legend introduced the terms "shit sandwich" and "boning" into the media lexicon with his pal Eddie McGuire, is standing down as managing director of Nine Network Australia after seven years of turbulence at the free-to-air broadcaster.
There would be a month in Europe, Mr Browne said, and mulling over offers he has received to complement a new part-time role of executive director, commercial, of Nine Entertainment Co.
"This job has been 24-7 for many years now," he said, adding that turning 60 recently had stirred a desire for a better lifestyle. "There's a host of things I want to do."
Sources close to the network said Mr Browne's resignation, effective on August 1, was spurred by the view that his role was no longer necessary after Nine signed cricket and rugby deals and sold its magazine arm to Germany's Bauer.
The exit of Mr Browne - effectively second in charge of the network - does not affect David Gyngell, who remains chief executive of Nine Entertainment.
Mr Browne's time at Nine has spanned changes of ownership, a near-collapse and an affidavit from a former employee that publicly aired the company's colourful phrases "shit sandwich" and "boning", the latter meaning sacking.
A lawyer, he famously said that a TV station was "just a bucket of contracts". And Nine, once a jewel in the Packer crown that boasted about its ratings dominance, had plenty of big ones.
AFL and media personality McGuire left as Nine chief executive officer in 2007 after a short stint, leading to comments that the boner had become the boned. David Gyngell, whose father Bruce was the first person to appear on commercial television, took the reins and won plaudits for leading Nine through survival talks last year. They came about because private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific paid $5.5 billion for Nine before the financial crisis. Crippled by debt, it reached a deal with financiers last October, leaving US hedge funds Oaktree and Apollo in charge of a trimmed-down business that remains under pressure from a revitalised Seven.
"He's [Gyngell] made it competitive, but not like the good old days," a source said.
More recently, Nine won the international cricket rights - the bedrock on which Kerry Packer built the Nine empire in the 1970s and 1980s - after seeing off interest from Ten Network and the threat of legal action by Cricket Australia.
Nine has inked a deal to buy media mogul Bruce Gordon's WIN television stations in Adelaide and Perth, and was part of a $1.1 billion five-year deal for the broadcast rights to rugby league.
There is speculation that Nine, which also contains digital and ticketing businesses, might list on the sharemarket if equity markets remain strong.
Media buyer Harold Mitchell said on Wednesday it was "always difficult to fit into a media organisation if you haven't been there your whole life. Mr Browne came to it later in his career."
There was a period of adjustment when joining the network, Mr Browne said, and those tough years of rebuilding. But he said he was proud of his work at Nine.
His direct reports will now report to Mr Gyngell, who described the departing MD as the "best closer in the business".