David Kirk has resigned from his role as chief executive of Fairfax Media amid reports of a power struggle between him and his deputy, Brian McCarthy. The announcement which was effective immediately, will see McCarthy act as interim chief executive until the board meets on December 10.
Chairman Ron Walker paid tribute to Kirk, an “outstanding CEO” during his more than three years in the role.
"He and his team have led the complete repositioning of the company, from a metropolitan newspaper publishing business to a position in which the company is now clearly the leading media company in Australasia."
A former captain of New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team, Kirk said it had been a privilege to lead Fairfax Media - the publisher of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers - during this period of great change and challenge for media companies all over the world.
"A lot has been achieved and I thank especially the board and the many managers throughout the business who have contributed to the re-positioning of Fairfax Media for continued success in the future.
"I leave with the strongest pride in the quality and integrity of journalism and our mastheads and media assets, in print, online and on-air, throughout Australia and New Zealand, and all the employees across the business for the superb job that they always do."
Among highlights of Kirk's tenure have been the merger with Rural Press and the rapid growth in internet earnings, Walker says. Kirk had also helped operational improvements including cost reductions and achievement of all synergies from acquisitions as well as growth of circulations at the major metropolitan newspapers.
The announcement comes a day after the departure of Alan Oakley from the editorship of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’.
In its online site, ‘The Australian’ reports Kirk’s departure follows “weeks of turmoil” and has seen a six per cent increase in the company’s share price in early trading. McCarthy joined Fairfax from Rural Press following the merger, but the newspaper says “there is believed to have been a power struggle between the two men, with Mr McCarthy backed by Fairfax's 14 per cent shareholder John B Fairfax” and reports a board split between support for the two.