Former boss of News Corp, Kim Williams, has admitted to B&T that there’s still some lingering acrimony after the then CEO of the business left abruptly in 2013.
Williams ran Foxtel for a decade and was famously hoisted into the CEO role at News in 2011 only to resign after 20 months in the job. Williams’ push to digitise the print business, a fractious board and an unworkable relationship with Chris Mitchell, editor of The Australian, all cited for playing their part in his sudden and surprising departure.
Williams, however, denies any acrimony between him and his News’ bosses and says he left the position of his own volition. And despite reports of fiery confrontations between the then CEO and members of the Murdoch family – namely patriarch Rupert – Williams tells B&T that his tenure at the helm ended with him falling on his sword in August 2013.
And so does Rupert still send Williams a Christmas card?
“I wouldn’t have thought so,” he laughs. “Not only do I not think so, I know I’m not (on the Murdoch’s Christmas card list). I’ve not received a Christmas card for… (long pause) at least two Christmases.”
And does Williams – a staunch flag bearer for all things digital and one of the most astute media minds in the country – have any advice for his former print bosses?
“I’ve never been in the business of giving people gratuitous advice,” he says. “People make their judgements and they bear the consequences of them. Clearly I am of the view that we are living in an extremely dynamic period of change and you need to get on that bus and travel with that process of change and if you stand back and say ‘no’ you’ll probably have trouble.”
Which begs the question – is News a pointer to media’s malaise generally? Ageing management addicted to out of date technologies? Should we just appoint the 20-somethings and be done with it?
“There’s always a lot to be said for having a bit of grey hair,” Williams says with a nod to experience.
“You need to have some people in any large media enterprise that have lived through turbulence, that have lived through crisis, that have lived through difficult economic times and who have navigated and steered their enterprises through those times and come out the other side successfully.
“I’d be the last person to say that the world belongs to everybody under the age of 30. Do you need to have a lot of people under 30 working around you? Of course you do. Any business has always needed fresh DNA; the world belongs to talent.
“And one of the great things about digital technology is that it anoints talent much earlier in their career lifecycle than traditional analogue media did. And people are now far more impatient with position for position’s sake and that’s a very good thing in my opinion.”