Gyngell heads Down Under

Will return as CEO of Nine Net

David Gyngell is headed back to Australia as CEO of the Nine Network, just 21/2 years after he resigned the position and went on to head Los Angeles-based Granada America.

Nine parent PBL Media announced the move Tuesday, with CEO Ian Law calling Gyngell's return "a critical step in the continuing process of accelerating Nine to a position of market leadership."

Meanwhile, Granada America maintained Tuesday that Gyngell's departure will not impact any of its numerous projects in development. "It's business as usual," a spokesman said. A replacement for Gyngell had not been decided, he added.

Among the projects under Gyngell's watch at Granada America was the Uri Geller- hosted reality series "Phenomenon" for NBC, based on an Israeli format from Keshet Broadcasting"; Food Fight," a reality pilot for ABC; Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares"; and the big budget "Eleventh Hour" ITV thriller that Jerry Bruckheimer is producing/adapting for Warner Bros. "Eleventh Hour" first aired on ITV with Patrick Stewart starring.

Also unaffected by the departure from Granada America is the Brett Ratner-helmed "The Boys From Brazil" film for New Line — the remake rights to which were licensed by Granada, a spokesman confirmed. The original "The Boys From Brazil" starred Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck in the tale about a plot by Nazis in South America to revive the Third Reich.

Gyngell left Nine in May 2005 after 11 months as CEO, citing "untenable and increasingly unhelpful and multilayered management systems developing between Nine and PBL."

Since then, Nine has had a revolving door of chief executives, including industry veteran Sam Chisholm, game show host Eddie McGuire and the current acting CEO, executive director Jeffrey Browne.

This year, Nine relinquished its position as the top-rated network in the country to rival Seven, with a resulting dramatic slide in ad revenue share.

At the same time, private equity group CVC Asia Pacific has become majority owner of the network after a corporate restructuring that saw PBL proprietor James Packer sell off the bulk of his media assets to CVC Asia Pacific, netting PBL AUS$3.5 billion ($2.9 billion). PBL's stake in Nine now stands at 25%.

Law said that Gyngell's appointment is part of a "reinvigoration" of Nine.

"David is widely recognized as one of the most experienced and passionate television executives in Australia. He has a unique perspective and great experience in the industry given his decades of tutorship from two of the giants of television — his father, Bruce (who headed Nine and Seven in the 1970s), and Kerry Packer," Law said.

Gyngell said it was a "great time to return home to Nine."

"This network has been my passion," he said. "Everyone who knows me knows that. In the last few years, my time running Granada Television in North America has broadened my experience and made me a better television executive."

In the new management structure, Nine executive director Browne will relocate to Melbourne, retaining his role while taking on the additional job of managing director of Nine's Melbourne station.

Also, former British Sky Broadcasting news exec Ian Cook will return to Nine from Sky News Australia to take up the position of news director.

Law said Nine's rebuilding will also be boosted by a AUS$150 million ($125 million) upgrade of its Sydney and Melbourne stations' facilities and technology.

Nine is seeking new space in those cities and moving to digitize its facilities "to ensure it has state-of-art operations around Australia," Law said.