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Kirk: New CEO to face media melee
As captain of the New Zealand All Blacks team that won the Rugby Union World Cup in 1987, David Kirk was never far from the scrum. A 5-foot-7, 160-pound halfback, he was the smallest man in a field of giants.
As captain of the New Zealand All Blacks team that won the Rugby Union World Cup in 1987, David Kirk was never far from the scrum. A 5-foot-7, 160-pound halfback, he was the smallest man in a field of giants. That alone required courage and fitness, but Kirk is best remembered for being one of the smartest leaders in the league, calling the right plays and making shrewd passes.
Those traits should prove useful now that the 44-year-old New Zealander is CEO of Australian newspaper publisher John Fairfax Holdings, a position he took up last month, just as the media industry prepared to scrum down for its own battle of possession.
Within the next few months, the Australian government will make changes to media ownership laws that restrict foreign investors and prevent common ownership of TV stations and newspapers in the same metropolitan market. The changes are expected to trigger a flurry of merger activity among Australia's bigger media companies.
The main players include Fairfax, which has a market cap of A$4.2 billion ($3.2 billion) and owns the Australian Financial Review, the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald newspapers, and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which owns the top-selling, Melbourne-based Herald Sun, the Australian and the Sydney Daily Telegraph. (Analysts say the News Corp. titles together are worth at least $A6 billion.) Both companies are expected to express interest in two listed TV networks, Seven (A$1.8 billion) and Ten (A$2.7 billion), as well as Nine, a privately held network with an estimated value of A$5 billion, owned by Publishing & Broadcasting (A$11.5 billion). Smaller regional firms like Rural Press (A$1.4 billion) may also come into play.
Though the stage is set for competition, Kirk says he will focus on improving business and boosting circulation. The new CEO, who left the chief's post at Sydney-based printing group PMP to join Fairfax, has also worked on the editorial side of media: He penned a sports column for a New Zealand paper for four years. "I learned about deadlines and what it's like to sit down with a blank page," he says.