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Fairfax chairman considers future -

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ELEANOR HALL: There are signs of a truce in the Fairfax boardroom this lunchtime. The media
company's chairman, Ron Walker caused a revolt late last week when he signalled his intention to
seek re-election as chairman.

But now Mr Walker says he will step down at November's annual general meeting in favour of the
company's deputy chairman, Roger Corbett. But his anticipated departure has at least three
replacements jostling for a spot on the Fairfax board.

As business editor Peter Ryan reports.

PETER RYAN: Discontent in the Fairfax boardroom turned hostile late last week when Ron Walker
signalled he'd stand for re-election as chairman at November's annual general meeting.

John B. Fairfax, who's Marinya Media owns almost 10 per cent of Fairfax, said he'd be voting
against the bid, questioning Mr Walker's record during the current turbulence at the once mighty
publishing empire.

But now despite a show of support for Ron Walker from boardroom colleagues including deputy
chairman Roger Corbett, Mr Walker appears likely to step down, now the chance of a boardroom
vacancy has contenders jostling for a seat, among them shareholder, activist and online publisher
Stephen Mayne.

STEPHEN MAYNE: I agree that it's time for Ron Walker, who's now 70, to retire, then I think there's
an issue around the fact that all of the directors bar one are over 65, and in the whole sort of
new media era I just think they need some younger, fresher directors who've got some media

They need to move on from the era of having traditional ageing directors who don't necessarily have
direct media experience.

PETER RYAN: Stephen Mayne says Ron Walker appears to have taken the hint about his plan to retire
next year after a controversial and possibly marginal re-election in November.

STEPHEN MAYNE: There doesn't seem to be much point in losing a lot of political skin and going
through a huge battle just to serve for another three months, so I think it's pretty clear now that
Ron will probably go at the AGM, and the debate then becomes whether he can hand over to his
preferred successor Roger Corbett, whether the Fairfax family and the institutions will wear that.

PETER RYAN: Do you think this has been a major miscalculation by Ron Walker about that strategy?

STEPHEN MAYNE: Certainly having turned 70 and with his CEO having departed last December, and with
the share price having been under pressure, I do think it was an overreach to attempt to be
re-elected in that environment, and I think Ron Walker is now recognising that the public brawling
isn't very helpful.

And he'll bow out at the AGM being able to point to some successes he's had over the last four and
a half years as chairman.

PETER RYAN: Another contender is Gerard Noonan - a long time Fairfax journalist and editor, now the
chairman of the $2.4 billion industry superannuation fund Media Super.

GERARD NOONAN: I would not normally have considered standing for this position, but I just thought
that the activities in the past week, some of the ridiculous performance by, in particular the two
leading characters, you know they were like a couple of bulls in the bottom paddock.

It led me to think, look, it's time that we actually stood up on this one.

PETER RYAN: Like Stephen Mayne, Gerry Noonan says the Fairfax boardroom needs an injection of
journalism, in addition to corporate oversight. But he doesn't blame Ron Walker for all of the
current problems.

GERARD NOONAN: I think he's done actually some important work for Fairfax, but I come from a
different quarter on this one, I think that the issue is about high quality editorial and that does
need representation.

PETER RYAN: Who would you be backing as chairman?

GERARD NOONAN: Look, I think it perhaps needs a new chairman from within the board, clearly that's
where the chairman will be drawn from, but perhaps not one of the ones that have been talked about
at the moment.

PETER RYAN: Not Roger Corbett?

GERARD NOONAN: Mr Corbett is clearly a very experienced businessman, he's on the Reserve Bank
board, he's been a very, prominently at Woolworths. Is he the right person to be actually chairing
a company like Fairfax media? I don't really know.

PETER RYAN: Gerard Noonan and Stephen Mayne are in the company of another contender from the world
of journalism, Steve Harris - a one-time editor of The Age and Herald Sun in Melbourne. Stephen
Mayne, a self confessed serial boardroom contender, made this prediction.

STEPHEN MAYNE: I think Steve Harris actually is the perfect candidate, I mean he has a lot of media
experience, he's independent, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he gets elected.

ELEANOR HALL: Endorsement from shareholder activist Stephen Mayne, ending that report from business
editor Peter Ryan. And Peter's full interviews with Stephen Mayne and Roger Corbett will be on The
World Today website later today. And as we heard earlier, Paul Keating says he's not a candidate
for the Fairfax board.