Peter Costello quits as chairman of Nine in the wake of airport fracas with reporter

Peter Costello has resigned as chairman of the Nine Entertainment media company, days after the highly-publicised incident in which a journalist who was trying to ask him questions landed on the ground at Canberra airport.


  • Michelle Grattan

    Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

The reporter from The Australian, Liam Mendes, immediately said Costello had “assaulted” him. Costello, who was in Canberra to open Nine’s new Parliament House studio, said he had not touched Mendes, claiming he had fallen over while walking backwards.

“As I walked past him, he walked back into an advertising placard and he fell over. I did not strike him. If he’s upset about that, I’m sorry,” Costello said. Costello made no effort to help Mendes up, or ask if he was all right.

The Thursday incident was captured on camera by Mendes.

It is believed Costello, who was appointed chairman in 2016 and had a couple of years still to run in his contract, wanted to tough things out. On Thursday night he rejected as “rubbish” any suggestion his chairmanship had been placed at risk.

Nine has been mired in a major scandal over revelations of complaints from staff about sexual harassment and toxicity in the workplace, especially for women. A senior news executive at Nine, Darren Wick, recently stepped down after a complaint about his past behaviour. Staff were further angered at reports Wick received a large payout. The scandal has put Nine’s chief executive officer Mike Sneesby under pressure.

Nine’s share price has also plummeting this year.

Costello is replaced by the Deputy Chair Catherine West.

Costello said in a long statement late Sunday: “After nearly eleven years on the Board of Nine Entertainment Company (NEC) and more than eight years as Chair, I had flagged retiring from the Board some time after the July Olympics and by the AGM in November at latest.

“Last year, the Company retained a Search Firm to identify new Directors. The work is well advanced.

“I have today informed the Board of NEC that I will pull forward that timing, stand down as Chair and resign as a Director.

“The Deputy Chair Catherine West has been working with the Search Firm and is well placed to Chair the company and conclude the process of refreshing the Board.

“The Board has been supportive through the events of the last month and last few days in particular. But going forward I think they need a new Chair to unite them around a fresh vision and someone with the energy to lead to that vision for the next decade.

“The new Chair will require full support from all Directors as this is an industry where there is fierce rivalry.

“I do not rate the attacks of a commercial rival. The threat to this industry comes externally from Trillion Dollar technology companies that are competing for its business. To stand still or hope to continue to do things as they always have been done is not an option.”

Costello said 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 strongly defended the company’s record since he joined the board.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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