Multiple industry sources familiar with the recruitment process said Marinos, who has led Sanzaar since 2015, was the leading candidate for the top job, which was left vacant when Castle departed after a falling-out with the board in April. Rob Clarke has filled the CEO’s role on an interim basis since then.
RA chairman Hamish McLennan is nearing a decision on a permanent replacement. He is expected to seek approval from the board to sign off on the new chief executive before the end of the year.
Marinos was one of several candidates in the running and fits the profile McLennan and his board have been searching for – an executive with experience in the sport and who understands how to manage relationships with broadcasters.
Other candidates in the mix included former NRL chief Todd Greenberg, former Cricket NSW CEO Andrew Jones, and Chris White, the boss of sport branding and sponsorship company International Quarterback.
The sources stressed that no deal had been signed and there were still other candidates in the mix but said Marinos was in a final round of meetings with key stakeholders.
Marinos has spent his career working in rugby in Australia and South Africa and has experience leading a commercial and marketing division – an area former advertising executives McLennan and Clarke consider hugely important for growing the code’s fanbase.
He also worked closely with Clarke during rugby’s broadcast rights negotiations this year. Rugby sources indicated that new broadcast partners Nine Entertainment Co and subscription service Stan were impressed by his efforts.
Nine and Stan signed a three-year A$100 million ($107m) deal with RA in early November.
The appointment of a CEO to Rugby Australia would mark an end to a difficult but significant year for the rugby union.
The retirement of chairman Paul McLean, the abrupt departure of Castle and the end to a two decade long relationship with Foxtel are among the major changes for the sport, which is also under a lot of financial pressure.