Australian media magnate quits as CEO of Channel Nine after his newspaper revealed romance


Australian media magnate Hugh Marks has quit as CEO of Channel Nine after his own newspaper revealed his romance with an ex-employee.

The businessman told workers he was leaving the company after five years in the top job through an email on Saturday afternoon.

It comes after the Sydney Morning Herald published an article claiming he was in a relationship with Nine’s former managing director of commercial Alexi Baker.

Ms Baker was spotted in Sydney’s Kings Cross on Saturday afternoon, at the same moment Mr Marks told the company of his resignation.

The brunette refused to comment on their relationship when asked by reporters on the way to her car.

Nine CEO Hugh Marks (pictured) has announced his shock resignation in an email to staff on Saturday

Alexi Baker (pictured) was spotted in Sydney's King Cross on Saturday afternoon, at the exact same time Mr Marks had informed the company of his resignation

Alexi Baker (pictured) was spotted in Sydney’s King Cross on Saturday afternoon, at the exact same time Mr Marks had informed the company of his resignation

In his resignation email, Mr Marks did not outline why he was quitting the media organisation, which owns Channel Nine and former Fairfax Newspapers the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

But the tycoon revealed that a formal process to hire his replacement would begin shortly.

He said in the email: ‘After five successful years for Nine, I have decided the time is right for me begin the process of moving on.

‘I want to take this opportunity to tell you what a privilege it has been leading this business over a truly transformational period for both the media market generally, and particularly our business.’

Mr Marks was called into a hastily convened online meeting with Nine’s board and chairman Peter Costello on Saturday to address the relationship.

It is understood his ties with the board became strained after rumours circulated that he was dating Ms Baker, and was grilled about his relationship with her.

He was also questioned over his conduct with another woman on his staff.

The CEO is rumoured to be in a relationship with Nine's former managing director of commercial Alexi Baker (pictured)

The CEO is rumoured to be in a relationship with Nine’s former managing director of commercial Alexi Baker (pictured)

When she was quizzed about the relationship, Ms Baker refused to comment and remained tight lipped when she made her way to the car

Ms Baker pictured in Kings Cross on Saturday

When she was quizzed about the relationship, Ms Baker refused to comment and remained tight lipped when she made her way to the car

Mr Marks has agreed to walk away after a six-month transition but will not have to give up any bonuses, seeing him walk away with a total of $5,037,500 (£3,817,733).

Bonuses include a fixed salary of $1,550,000 (£1,174,687) and bonuses worth $3,487,500 (£2,643,046).

The pair reportedly began dating while working together, with Ms Baker required to report to the CEO as part of her job. 

Nine’s Chairman Peter Costello was asked about a report by the Sunday Telegraph in May, which made claims about Mr Marks and executive assistant Jane Routledge.

The pair were pictured together in a Sydney park.

Mr Marks told Private Sydney: ‘There’s a lot of gossip and a lot of that gossip is out of control… and that sort of shocks me a bit that anyone is interested and that people can make s*** up.’

He did not want to comment further on the story published in May. Mr Marks said ‘everyone wants to be happy’, as he alluded to his new relationship.

Hugh Marks was snapped relaxing in a park with executive assistant Jane Routledge in May 2020

Hugh Marks was snapped relaxing in a park with executive assistant Jane Routledge in May 2020

Marks did not want to comment further on the story published in May. Pictured: Mr Marks and Jane Routledge in May 2020

Marks did not want to comment further on the story published in May. Pictured: Mr Marks and Jane Routledge in May 2020 

WHO IS ALEXI BAKER?

Alexi Baker studied a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Finance, between 2001 and 2005 at the University of NSW. 

Before joining Nine, Ms Baker had worked as an analyst at Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse. 

She joined Nine in 2011 as a strategy manager.

In 2016, Ms Baker was appointed director of strategy and corporate development – a role she retained following the $4 billion merger of Fairfax and Nine.

She played important roles in the merger with Fairfax Media in July 2018, the broadcaster’s decision to switch from cricket to tennis rights in March the same year and the acquisition of the remaining stake in Macquarie Radio that Nine did not own.

Ms Baker also played a part in the growth of  subscription video on-demand service Stan. 

She then became commercial director in February this year.

She announced her resignation in October, stating she was looking to ‘take on a new challenge’. 

‘I just wanted to let you know that after much thought over the last while, I’ve decided it’s time for me to move on from Nine,’ she said in an email to her management colleagues.

‘I have so enjoyed my time at Nine and don’t do it lightly. But with the big deals done and the business in such a great position, I think it’s time for me to explore what is next in my career.’    

‘I have absolutely loved working with this group of people. And especially the opportunity to work beside such incredibly creative people making content.’

Mr Marks on Saturday said the relationship was ‘in its early days’ and was due to being lonely because of isolation as a result of Covid-19.

He said: ‘Coming out of Covid, the business started to improve, people were coming back into the office.

‘I guess I just started to think about what might be the next stage for me personally on many fronts.

‘Everyone wants to be happy. People think you should be superhuman in these roles but you are still just a person.’

Mr Marks split with his lawyer wife Gayle a year ago. The couple have four children together.

He said it was a ‘difficult period’ ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought business challenges.

Ms Baker started working at Nine in 2011 and stepped down from her role last month.

She played important roles in the merger with Fairfax Media in July 2018, the broadcaster’s decision to switch from cricket to tennis rights in March the same year and the acquisition of the remaining stake in Macquarie Radio that Nine did not own.

She also played a part in the growth of  subscription video on-demand service Stan.

Last month Ms Baker decided to leave the company, stating she was ‘taking on a new challenge’.

She said in an email to colleagues: ‘I just wanted to let you know that after much thought over the last while, I’ve decided it’s time for me to move on from Nine.

‘I have so enjoyed my time at Nine and don’t do it lightly. But with the big deals done and the business in such a great position, I think it’s time for me to explore what is next in my career.

‘I have absolutely loved working with this group of people. And especially the opportunity to work beside such incredibly creative people making content.’

Mr Marks said at the time: ‘The whole management team at Nine wish Alexi well and thank her for the enormous contribution she has made to the transformation of Nine.’

‘Alexi will be missed by us all but we understand her desire to seek new opportunities and wish her well for the future.’

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