Oz TV Exec Quits With Two Finger Salute to Packer Clan

11 May 2005

David Gyngell (son of Bruce, the first face to appear on Australian TV and saviour of UK national station TV-AM back in 1984) has quit the chief executive's post at the Packer family-owed Australian network Nine, citing interference by the clan Packer and its henchmen.

The flounce-out is given added piquancy in that Gyngell, less than a year in the ceo's hotseat, is the literal godson of media magnate Kerry Packer.

Growls Gyngell: "Without the unmistakably clear mandate required by all ceos to properly run any major business, I believed it was in my best interests to move on.

"I was simply not prepared to allow my position to be rendered untenable by what I regard as increasingly unhelpful and multi-layered management systems between Nine and PBL [Nine's parent, Publishing & Broadcasting Limited]."

Insiders interpret this as shorthand for corporate crown prince James D Packer, PBL ceo John H Alexander, PBL non-executive director and industry veteran Sam Chisholm, plus programming and sports executive Lynton Taylor.

Although sources report Nine's management to be "gobsmacked" at the departure, Gyngell had threatened resignation over the weekend with James Packer, who reportedly tried to persuade him to stay.

The Gyngell camp is fingering Alexander as the trigger for the resignation, claiming he demanded "direct and constant reporting". But, says an anonymous PBL executive: "[Gyngell] was naive to believe he could get away with not giving him [Alexander] the information required to be the managing director of a public company."

Meantime into the breach steps old-timer Sam Chisholm, a former ceo at Rupert Murdoch's UK satellite TV operation BSkyB. He will mind the Nine shop until a successor is found for Gyngell.

As one Aussie media onlooker observed: "Life with the Borgias would have been simpler - and with more interesting cooking!"

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff