Walker to step down as Fairfax chairman

by | Sep 23, 2009 | Business

THE chairman of Fairfax Media, Ron Walker, is expected to stand down at the Fairfax annual general meeting in November.

Mr Walker, who had pledged to stand for re-election and serve until August, told the Herald andThe Age last night that he would recommend the deputy chairman, Roger Corbett, a former Woolworths chief executive, as his successor.

”I will be meeting with Roger and the major [Fairfax] shareholders on Monday and Tuesday to determine their views on a possible succession program should I not stand for re-election at the annual general meeting,” he said.

The Fairfax boardroom has been bitterly divided, with John B. Fairfax and his son Nicholas opposing Mr Walker’s re-election, while Mr Corbett and other independent directors are supporting him.

The chairman’s decision to fall on his sword should help to resolve the impasse, sources said. A spokesperson for the Fairfaxes’ private company, Marinya Media, said: ”We have acknowledged Roger’s strengths. Roger’s re-election is a matter for shareholders.”

Simmering tensions in the Fairfax boardroom turned into outright hostilities last Thursday after Mr Walker said he would retire on August 10 next year.

Later that day, Marinya Media, which owns 9.7 per cent of Fairfax Media, publisher of theHerald, issued a statement highly critical of Mr Walker and pledging to vote against his re-election. Mr Walker and his board allies responded by criticising the statement.

Both the Fairfax and Walker factions say they have the support of large institutional investors. The claims will be tested next week when Mr Walker visits shareholders to canvass support for Mr Corbett.

Mr Fairfax has called for ”renewal” on the board, citing a lack of strategic direction and poor share price performance.


Michael West

Michael West

Michael West established michaelwest.com.au to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.


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