Sunday, June 23, 2024

The man who wears the crown in Nine’s Game of Thrones

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And if Gordon were to sell this one relatively small TV station, there is nothing stopping him from voting his 25 per cent stake and buying more if he was inclined to make a takeover offer.

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For now, Gordon has been busy, using the creep provisions of the Corporations Act twice over the past year to increase his non-voting stake to its current 25 per cent.

Gordon has one representative on the Nine board, Andrew Lancaster, the chief executive of Gordon-owned WIN TV and his investment company Birketu. But Lancaster scrupulously shies away from talking about the politics or the dynamics of the Nine boardroom.

But with Costello gone and the board now in the throes of being “refreshed”, and thanks to Gordon’s influence, Lancaster is the only board member with any real financial skin in the game.

At the very least, Gordon/Lancaster will have vetting rights beyond that of any other director.

And while it may seem curious that Nine’s largest shareholder is bulking up his investment at a time when others have been watching its shares fall with alarm, Gordon is no ordinary investor.

Andrew Lancaster, Bruce Gordon’s representative on the Nine board.

It’s no surprise Gordon, not too far shy of his centennial year, is old school – or in media parlance, analog.

He takes the view that Nine is a company with great products, great people and great content.

And it seems he is exercising his investment judgment that the weakness in Nine’s share price provides him with the perfect opportunity to pick up additional shares on the cheap.

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This investment view appears to trump any concerns that Nine is structurally challenged and victim to the large digital media platforms that have been eroding its advertiser and audience base.

To be sure Nine, like its free-to-air broadcasting rivals and other media companies, is feeling the ravages of a soft advertising market. Shares in Seven West Media, which is controlled by billionaire Kerry Stokes and which owns the Seven Network, have fallen almost 55 per cent over the past year against Nine, which is down some 30 per cent.

Some of Nine’s recent share price performance probably relates to the cultural crisis now engulfing it thanks to the recent revelations that unreported bullying and harassment had been going on for years – nurtured by a culture that allowed an alleged perpetrator or perpetrators to continue in an environment where their behaviour was an open secret.

The independent investigation that is in progress should reveal if any board member or management shares some culpability. Who at the board or senior management level knew or when they knew, who was responsible for any non-disclosure agreements that were reportedly entered into, and who was responsible for the $1 million golden handshake made to former news and current affairs executive Darren Wick, who allegedly sexually harassed female staff.

There is plenty yet to play out.

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