Arts-Loving Former News Corp Australia CEO Kim Williams Gets Sporty, Joining AFL Commission

Kim Williams is joining the AFL Commission. Photo: Patrick Riviere/Getty Images

In one of the biggest surprises to hit AFL since Gary Ablett Jr left Geelong for the Gold Coast Suns, the AFL will appoint former News Corp and Foxtel boss Kim Williams to the AFL Commission, replacing Chris Lynch, who moved to London as CFO of Rio Tinto.

AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick nominated Williams for the non-executive position this afternoon following a meeting of Commissioners in Sydney.

Mr Williams will stand for election at the March 4 AGM, with current Commissioners, former Family Court judge Linda Dessau and Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder re-nominating and standing unopposed.

Seek’s Paul Bassat, former union boss Bill Kelty, one-time Keating advisor Sam Mostyn, the first female commissioner, CEO Andrew Demetriou, and former Hawthorn player and accountant Chris Langford all continue in the role.

Who knows what parochial, footy-mad Victorians, who consider David Williamson’s 1970s play, The Club, a documentary, will make of the appointment, although Collingwood president Eddie McGuire was among those who tagged Williams for the role. The AFL is certainly pushing aggressively into the Sydney market having launched a second team, the GWS Giants, in 2012, and Williams is one of the Emerald City’s best connected people.

But this move into sport seems surprising after Sydney-born and bred Williams built a distinguished career in the arts, most recently on the Sydney Opera House Trust. He was head of Fox Studios for a decade, founder and chairman of the Australian Film Finance Corporation, and chaired a number of arts organisations, including the Australian Film Commission and Musica Viva, as well as being a senior exec at the ABC. He studied classical music and composed numerous works that perhaps lacked the catchiness of Up There Cazaly.

It’s certainly a strategic move by the AFL, keen to extract maximum value from its next round of media rights negotiations, and Williams, having left News Corp somewhat prematurely in late 2013 after just two years in the job, will undoubtedly use his firm negotiating skills in what will be lively discussions with his former employers.

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