Nine boss let Wilkinson walk due to multiple contracts

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Lisa Wilkinson leaves her Neutral Bay house. She has just left Channel Nine (9) for Channel Ten (10). Pic by Nick Moir 17 oct 2017

Lisa Wilkinson leaves her Neutral Bay house. She has just left Channel Nine (9) for Channel Ten (10). Pic by Nick Moir 17 oct 2017

The head of Channel Nine has reportedly blamed Lisa Wilkinson's "multiple commercial contracts" for her stunning departure from the network, saying she spread herself too thin across rival media platforms whereas co-host Karl Stefanovic is wholly owned by Nine.

Wilkinson sensationally quit the Today Show on Monday after drawn-out contract negotiations with her employer broke down.

The 57-year-old journalist was demanding "parity" with her co-anchor Karl Stefanovic, who was widely reported to have signed a $2 million per annum, three-year deal, with Nine.

As Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday, Nine refused to pay her as much as Stefanovic, partly because he has other roles as a presenter on 60 Minutes and host of successful prime time show This Time Next Year.

The amount being offered to Wilkinson was almost at the $2 million mark and included a special "package" crafted for her which incorporated potentially new lucrative endorsement deals via Nine's sales department.

There were also other incentives to contribute to Nine's own digital offering, rather than her current deal to write for the Australian edition of US-based website HuffPost.

Nine chief executive Hugh Marks told the Daily Telegraph that he let Wilkinson go because she was spreading herself too thin with other media contracts, such as her role as editor-at-large of Huffpost Australia. Wilkinson refused to give them up.

"The reason we walked away from Lisa is because we are not able to secure those rights [across all areas] with her," Marks told The Daily Telegraph.

"She has a number of commercial rights with other parties. Her arrangement with the Huffington Post restricts our ability to engage with her digitally... We are restricted from engaging with her also on social media.

"I hate the fact we have to compare her with Karl but with him we have all those rights. With Lisa we do not."

The newspaper reported that Nine was frustrated when Wilkinson filed exclusive stories for HuffPost Australia - such as her story about breaking her arm on holidays - instead of Nine's lifestyle sites.

Marks also revealed that Wilkinson was asking for $2.3 million and that he went to "an incredible amount of trouble" to build a $1.8 million package for her.

"It wasn't a $200,000 shortfall to [Stefanovic's] $2 million magic number. It was $500,000," he said.

Confirming Fairfax's report that Nine's executives were weighing up the prospect or paying Wilkinson more or saving 10 jobs, Marks said he could "invest that money in junior journalists coming into the business".

It's understood Wilkinson had grown frustrated at the lack of prime time opportunities on Nine, and that she was often overlooked to handle the "big" stories.

Nine management is also known to have grown weary of her pursuit of personal publicity in recent months but the final proverbial straw came on Sunday when sensitive details about her contract negotiations with Nine were leaked in the Murdoch press, seen by many as a strategy to increase pressure on Marks to meet Wilkinson's terms.

Soon after the bombshell news broke on Tuesday, Wilkinson took to social media to announce she was joining Channel Ten's youth-focused news show The Project in the new year, an odd move according to some industry observers given the show's demographics.

Disclosure: The Huffington Post, now known as HuffPost, launched in Australia in partnership with Fairfax Media

This story Nine boss let Wilkinson walk due to multiple contracts first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.