Fairfax NZ head quits in lead up to merger ruling

Fairfax NZ head quits in lead up to merger ruling

Fairfax New Zealand managing director Simon Tong has resigned and will finish with the media group next Friday – two days after the New Zealand Commerce Commission is scheduled to hand down its ruling on the company’s merger with NZME.

Mr Tong is understood to have accepted a job with the ASB Bank as head of its technology, innovation and payments department.

In one of his last acts as head of Fairfax NZ, Mr Tong sent a letter to the commerce commission – signed jointly by NZME chief executive Michael Boggs – in a last-ditch appeal to pass the merger.

The letter stated the merger would create “a strong news industry” in the face of competition from major overseas companies such as Facebook and Google.

A draft decision from the commission indicated it was likely to reject the decision due to the loss of media diversity and “content quality”.

Other media companies are interested in the outcome of the merger. Southern Cross Media expressed an interest in NZME’s radio assets earlier this month.

Submissions to the commission on the NZME and Fairfax NZ merger last year exposed concerns over a reduction of independent views, the establishment of a near monopoly and job losses.

Of the 27 submissions received, 25 were against the proposal or said it was not in the public interest, and two outlined conditions that should be enacted if the proposal is approved.

Mr Tong was appointed manager director of Fairfax NZ in June 2013. Chief operating officer Andrew Boyle will step in as acting managing director from next Friday.

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