Rugby League

Accor Hotels boss Simon McGrath in line for NRL CEO job

Accor Hotels chief operating officer Simon McGrath is one of the 10 external applicants the NRL have identified as a potential replacement for Dave Smith.

Fairfax Media also understands NRL chief commercial officer Michael Brown is in contention for the top job, joining Todd Greenberg, Jim Doyle and Raelene Castle as the rugby league-linked names on the shortlist.

The Sydney-based McGrath, who is now in the interview process for the NRL position, oversees 250 hotels in the Accor Pacific division – including Sofitel, Pullman and Novotel.

Brown, the former Hawthorn Hawks chief executive, joined the NRL in June last year after three years heading up the 2015 AFC Asian Cup tournament in Australia.

While the NRL has begun the interview phase with the 10 external applicants, it is understood the six NRL-aligned names on its shortlist haven't been involved in the recruitment process yet.

Brown told Fairfax Media he was comfortable in his current role as NRL chief commercial officer, also handed the job as CEO of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup to be held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea..

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However, Brown, who also spent a decade as general manager at Cricket Australian from 2002 to 2012, admitted he wouldn't hesitate to consider the top job if he were approached.

It comes after revelations two AFL club bosses knocked back approaches from the NRL to apply for Smith's old job.

Geelong boss Brian Cook, who is understood to be the highest paid CEO of all AFL clubs, turned down the approach before Christmas.

So too did Richmond CEO Brendon Gale, who had a number of conversations with recruitment agency Crown & Marks, which is acting on behalf of the NRL, prior to declining the offer in December.

McGrath joined Accor in 2005 and worked his way up from general manager to COO, overseeing hotels in Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia and Fiji.

He left school at the age of 16 and began working in the hospitality industry doing housekeeping duties before climbing to the top.

The money on offer for the vacant NRL CEO position is not as much as Smith's contract, which was believed to be worth in excess of $1.5 million. The new CEO stands to earn $1 million a year, a similar figure to what the top AFL club bosses earn.

It is significantly lower than the $3.3 million contract AFL chief executive Gillon Mclachlan is reportedly on and lower than the $2.2 million former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou was earning.

While Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant insists the new CEO must have a love and knowledge for rugby league, the NRL has expanded its search across the country in a bid to find the right person to lead the game.

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