Kim Williams falls from favour as next ABC managing director

Former News Corp Australia chief Kim Williams is not expected to be named the new ABC managing director. SBS managing director Michael Ebeid emerged as an early favourite for the ABC top job. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Former News Corp Australia boss Kim Williams is expected to be overlooked as the replacement for departing ABC managing director Mark Scott after dividing the broadcaster’s board.

Fairfax Media also understands that SBS managing director Michael Ebeid is not favoured to replace Mr Scott when his second five-year term expires in July.

Mr Williams and Mr Ebeid were both shortlisted for the role after a global search by corporate headhunter Egon Zehnder.

The prospect of Mr Williams leading the ABC has attracted much attention because of his controversial tenure at News Corp Australia and his past criticisms of the ABC. He is also close friends with the ABC chairman Jim Spigelman.

Mr Williams was interviewed for the role, but was viewed by several directors as too polarising a figure to lead the organisation.

His tenure at News Corp Australia lasted less than two years after he got offside with key editors and eventually Rupert Murdoch, who felt he was moving too quickly to transform the company.

He has previously criticised the ABC’s “endless capacity for self-congratulation”, said it breaks little news and accused it of dumbing down its content.

The ABC board met last week to discuss Mr Scott’s replacement and hopes to have a replacement announced by the end of the year. A final decision has not been made but is said to be imminent.

The board has been keen to appoint a woman to the role as the first female managing director in ABC history.

Mr Scott has been removing himself from recent board discussions concerning his replacement.

The Australian last week reported that Jay Hunt, chief creative officer of British public broadcaster Channel 4, was the frontrunner to succeed Mr Scott. But Fairfax Media understands Ms Hunt was not shortlisted for the role and will not replace Mr Scott.

Mr Scott has repeatedly noted that he was not named in any reports before he was appointed to the role in 2006, fuelling a belief within the ABC that a surprise candidate will emerge as his successor.

The ABC has applied to the Remuneration Tribunal – the independent body that sets pay rates for politicians and top public servants – for a salary increase for the next managing director, arguing the current salary is not enough to keep pace with the private sector.

Consultancy work commissioned by the ABC found Mr Scott’s current salary is 30 to 40 per cent below market standards, and should be lifted to attract talented recruits from the private sector.

Mr Scott was paid a total salary of $823,613 in 2013-14. A 40 per cent pay increase would lift his successor’s total salary to around $1.2 million.

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