Digital artwork for the daily tele
Digital artwork for the daily tele

Today understudy turns the tables on Stefanovic

"Maaate," Karl Stefanovic bleated to the younger man, one tipped to one day succeed Stefanovic at Today, reporter Ben Fordham, who from 2011 to 2014 presented sport on the breakfast show and regularly filled in as the male host's understudy.

"Maaaaate," Fordham responded as the two leaned back in a broad mansplay, chatting about nothing in particular, as TV "maaates" do, in broader still Queensland accents (though Fordham is actually from Sydney's north shore), under the watchful eye of the man charged with the task of getting the chemistry right on Today back then, EP Tom Malone.

Karl Stefanovic returned to Nine as the host of Today. Picture: Christian Gilles
Karl Stefanovic returned to Nine as the host of Today. Picture: Christian Gilles

Fast forward to 2020 and Malone, a school mate of Fordham, is now running Nine Radio where Fordham's career continues to flourish.

Fordham is currently being promoted, and at some expense too, as 2GB's biggest star - much, we imagine, to the annoyance of morning show host Ray Hadley, he of the mighty 17 point audience market share.

Fordham's face is everywhere - bus-backs, newspapers, websites - as the clock counts down to the release of radio ratings this month that will either confirm or condemn the wisdom of Nine's decision to transplant Fordham from the drive slot to breakfast, at Hadley's expense, following the departure of Alan Jones in May.

Meanwhile Nine's tarnished king, Stefanovic, who this writer is yet to see on a bus-back this year, is in the fight of his life to prove his worth to his employer.

Under Nine CEO Hugh Marks, that worth was put at $3 million-a-year a few years back.

Since November, when the formerly sacked and contrite Today host was returned as host of that show, his worth has been put at closer to $1 million mark. Mainstream media have reported it being $1.25 million.

It's a figure said to be in the area of what his former understudy, Fordham - who also hosts Australian Ninja Warrior for Nine's TV arm - now earns.

Ben Fordham has been going from strength to strength in his career. Picture: Gaye Gerard
Ben Fordham has been going from strength to strength in his career. Picture: Gaye Gerard

Unlike Today, This Time Next Year and The Verdict, all hosted by Stefanovic, Ninja Warrior is a proven ratings winner.

Stefanovic must content himself with a recent lift in Today's ratings - which comes on the back of heightened COVID-19 interest - to within 36,000 of Seven's still dominant Sunrise.

Stefanovic's one-time understudy is now the one to watch at Nine and perhaps, in Stefanovic's financially-adjusted mind, the one now to emulate.

Whether this is why Stefanovic's agent pitched his client for Fordham's old drive show at 2GB earlier this year, though denied by Malone on Friday, we may never know.

Well-placed sources claim Stefanovic hoped the 2GB drive show might be worth another $1 million a year, lifting his salary back to something akin to his former glory days.

But someone at Nine had other ideas with that show going to Seven News' Mr Congeniality Jim Wilson.

Old "maaate" Fordham could have advised Stefanovic against the dual roles.

In 2014 Fordham stepped down from Today to spend more time at home with his new young family.

Given the choice back then, he picked radio. The toll of having two demanding concurrent weekday commitments - one starting at 4am, as Today does, and the other finishing at 6pm, as the 2GB drive show does - meant he had little time for anything, or anyone else.

Father-of-four Stefanovic could take a leaf from the younger man's book given his plans, revealed in The Sunday Telegraph's Stellar magazine on Father's Day, to expand his own brood from four - to more.

 

SAM'S MUM MOVES IN

After being hospitalised with a cardiac condition, the mother of Sunrise host Samantha Armytage has been discharged from hospital and is now recovering at her daughter's home.

Libby Armytage was hospitalised with heart failure several weeks ago, her daughter saying the condition related to a pre-existing auto-immune disease she was first diagnosed with 15 years ago.

Samantha Armytage brought her mum home with her after she was hospitalised. Picture: Damian Shaw
Samantha Armytage brought her mum home with her after she was hospitalised. Picture: Damian Shaw

This column understands Libby is now holed up in her daughter's home - believed to be her new city pad - being cared for by Armytage while receiving treatment as a hospital outpatient. Armytage's father, Mac, has meanwhile returned to the family home to recover from a recent stroke.

It was a big week for Armytage who sold her Southern Highlands house for $3.1 million prompting talk she is set to move in with boyfriend Richard Lavender.

 

NO BILLIONAIRE BASH DESPITE MILESTONE

After twice being taken to task for dodging mandatory hotel quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, billionaire media proprietor Kerry Stokes will forgo a big party for his 80th birthday possibly in the hope of avoiding further public scrutiny.

Kerry Stokes, pictured with Tim Worner, will not have a party to celebrate his 80th birthday this year. Picture: Hollie Adams
Kerry Stokes, pictured with Tim Worner, will not have a party to celebrate his 80th birthday this year. Picture: Hollie Adams

There will be no gathering of sons both natural - Ryan, Bryant and Russell - and 'adopted' - disgraced former Seven CEO Tim Worner, embattled Seven executive Ben Roberts-Smith and billionaire James Packer - and one estranged daughter Raeline, in beautiful Broome for a knees-up to rival that of trucking magnate Lindsay Fox, who entertained 450 friends including Greg Norman, Joe Hockey and Eddie McGuire on a private yacht on the Mediterranean in 2016 at a personal cost of around $5 million.

Short of privatising WA newspapers, there's apparently nothing Stokes either wants or needs and parties have never been high on his list of priorities, we hear.

Originally published as Today understudy turns the tables on Stefanovic



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