An office relationship involving Nine Entertainment’s chief executive Hugh Marks has seen him resign from his position but not before he secured a potential $2 million bonus payment.
Mr Marks, who was reportedly known as “Hollywood Hugh” for being very un-Hollywood, has been facing questions over his romantic relationships since May when The Sunday Telegraph published photos of him enjoying a picnic with his former executive assistant, Jane Routledge.
Mr Marks has denied a relationship with Ms Routledge but on Saturday confirmed he was dating another subordinate, former commercial director Alexi Baker, who left Nine last month. He confirmed the relationship on Saturday.
Mr Marks, 54, told the Sydney Morning Herald part of the reason Ms Baker left was so they could “progress” their relationship without being obstructed by their corporate responsibilities.
The revelations sparked a “tense” phone hook-up that split the board, according to The Australian.
Some directors formerly of Fairfax Media, which merged with Nine in December 2018, wanted an independent investigation into the relationship.
However, Nine chairman Peter Costello reportedly wanted the issue to be handled within the company.
Hours later Mr Marks quit the company.
“When it became clear this relationship was going to become a subject of ridiculous gossip and so much pressure was going to come on the people in the business I just said to myself the right thing to do at this point is to take that pressure off the business and its people,” Mr Marks told the SMH.
“Everyone wants to be happy. People think you should be superhuman in these roles but you are still just a person.”
Mr Marks said he was already intending to give up the top job once staff had moved into the new Nine headquarters in North Sydney at the end of the year, though the exact timing had not yet been decided on.
Mr Marks confirmed the relationship started “a couple of months ago” but did not say when he informed chairman Peter Costello. The Australian reports that the relationship had been common knowledge among executives for weeks.
Sources told the paper that the decision to leave was made by Mr Marks and there were no formal grounds to remove him in Nine’s code of conduct. He says he did not give Ms Baker any bonuses or promote her while they were involved.
“He wasn’t asked to do anything. He resigned of his own volition. He knew there was a meeting, and said ‘I’ll take it into my own hands’,” one told The Australian.
Mr Marks became chief executive of Nine in November 2015 and oversaw its $4 billion merger with Fairfax Media in 2018.
Just two days before he announced his resignation on Saturday, the top executive was awarded a potential $2 million bonus at Nine’s annual general meeting.
During the meeting, chairman Peter Costello was asked about Mr Marks’ personal life and the previous May article about Mr Marks and his executive assistant Jane Routledge.
Despite the scrutiny, Mr Marks’ bonus was approved.
The revelations come a year after Mr Marks confirmed to The Sunday Telegraph in November 2019 that his marriage to Gayle, the mother of his four children, had come to an end.
The paper is now reporting that Mr Marks may be planning to have a baby with his new flame Ms Baker, who was previously married to Goldman Sachs director Andrew McLennan.
Before her departure, Ms Baker and Mr Marks worked closely together. After she was promoted in February to the role of managing director commercial, her corner office was next door to Mr Marks’s.
Previous to that she was promoted to director of strategy and corporate development in 2016.
Ms Baker has survived the departure of numerous other executives including two chief financial officers, Greg Barnes and his replacement Paul Koppelman, former finance director Simon Kelly, chief digital officer Alex Parsons, and joint head of strategy Melanie Kansil.
In an email confirming her departure, Ms Baker said: “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”.