With reportedly just a few weeks to go before he weds shoe designer Jasmine Yarbrough, Karl Stefanovic is making headlines again for the wrong reasons.
And the latest controversy has reportedly put not just fans but his own network offside.
Last week came the story – as reported by News Corp and later Fairfax – that Stefanovic has launched a “top secret” operation to rebuild his damaged personal “brand” amid falling ratings for the Today show, which media experts have linked to his bitter public divorce and Ubergate.
At the helm of the project is “gun Melbourne personal marketing strategist” Mitch Catlin, a former TV news reporter who confirmed he has been hired to repair Stefanovic’s “credibility” with audiences and advertisers.
But according to new reports, the move has blown up in Stefanovic’s face.
Nine is said to be furious that its highest-paid star would look to someone outside the network’s experienced publicity department to handle his affairs.
On Monday, The New Daily asked Nine if Stefanovic’s move had backfired, given the strength of its own in-house team.
We also asked if it was true that Stefanovic and his manager, Sharon Finnigan, met Nine last week to discuss his absence from Today during his wedding celebrations, and how the morning show will work if other key staff are invited to the wedding.
“No comment on any of it,” a Nine spokesperson said.
A former chief of staff at Ten and one-time Los Angeles correspondent for Seven, Mr Catlin ditched journalism for PR in 2005.
He was a PR boss for Myer – his claim he ‘made’ Jennifer Hawkins is not necessarily shared by the department store’s newly-retired face or her management – and Swisse. He has also had high-profile roles in global marketing, brand concept and corporate affairs.
Now, according to the website for his Catchy Media Marketing and Management company – whose clients include basketballer Liz Cambage, former swimmer Geoff Huegill and rugby player James O’Connor – “Mitch is thrilled to be trying his luck on his own”.
Despite his strong on-paper qualifications, Mr Catlin’s hiring as a crisis management specialist is curious, according to industry sources.
One described it as an “odd choice”. Another said: “This will blow up.”
As the Sydney Morning Herald put it, “Catlin is best known for walking celebrities into marquees at the Melbourne Cup”.
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What a day with an icon. Such an honour @ellemacphersonofficial thanks @lexusaustralia @fednic @susiecox @therealmdgp @xxkellysammut @tinkpr 🐴🐴 what an outfit @toni_maticevski you are the king .. styled by the one and only @kirstymcbeth my kit by @arthurgalanag ❤️
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Several media industry sources suggested it would be interesting to know who leaked news of Mr Catlin’s hiring to the media.
Fairfax reported it had asked Mr Catlin at Flemington on November 3 if he had actually leaked it himself, but he declined to comment.
“It’s interesting timing, when News Corp breaks the story but Nine has just signed a deal with Fairfax,” said a Sydney PR insider.
“If I was working in publicity at Nine, I’d be ropeable.
“If I was doing Karl’s publicity, I’d tell him to go quiet for the moment, and just behave yourself. The wedding’s coming up – time to be classy.”