Brian Cook, the AFL’s most successful and longest serving club chief, is being headhunted by the strife-torn Carlton Football Club.
The Blues’ new president Luke Sayers contacted the outgoing Geelong chief executive earlier this month with a view to luring Cook into a senior leadership position as the club sets about rebuilding its depleted football operation.
Outgoing Geelong CEO Brian Cook.Credit:John Woudstra
Although no formal offer has been put forward it is understood that Carlton has earmarked Cook for a full-time position and most likely the top job at the club, which last week sacked coach David Teague and two of his assistants and replaced four board members.
Sayers said on Friday he could not guarantee the position of current chief executive Cain Liddle. When contacted by The Age on Monday and asked whether he had approached Cook, Sayers responded: “no comment”.
Cook, who has knocked back offers from a number of clubs in recent years, notably the Gold Coast and North Melbourne, has been the subject of interest at a number of clubs since announcing he would step down as Geelong boss at the end of the season.
While there is no suggestion either Mark Korda or his Collingwood presidential rival Jeff Browne is looking to replace Magpies CEO Mark Anderson it is understood that at least one of the two camps has some interest in retaining Cook in a shorter-term consultancy role.
The Cats hope to retain Cook at Kardinia Park as that club works towards the next development stage of GMHBA Stadium. Club president Craig Drummond said Cook had been offered an ongoing “paid role and active role within the club”. The 65-year-old is expected to spend several weeks at the club after Geelong’s finals campaign comes to an end in a handover with incoming boss Steve Hocking.
Cook, who did not respond to calls from The Age, is in Perth in quarantine with the Cats in his last weeks as the Geelong CEO after 23 years in that role. During the Cook era the club was rebuilt into an AFL success story on and off the field, winning three premierships and missing finals on only six occasions.
Having removed Gary Ayres as coach in his first year Cook oversaw only two more senior coaches – Mark Thompson and Chris Scott – over the past 22 years. Cook was also chief executive at West Coast during that club’s first decade, when the Eagles won their first two flags.
Liddle came to Carlton from Richmond in 2018 on a strong membership and marketing platform. He clashed with former list boss Stephen Silvagni on football issues but won that power struggle with a bitter Silvagni forced from the club at the end of 2019.
While Liddle is widely regarded to have delivered in a commercial sense he held a blurry role in the club’s controversial football review. He was initially named as one of the review committee that was overseen internally by Sayers and externally by veteran football administrator Geoff Walsh. Last week Liddle received strong feedback following the completion of the review as did football boss Brad Lloyd.
On Friday, Sayers did not guarantee Liddle would remain chief executive while adding that he expected both Liddle and Lloyd to undergo the mountain of work required to implement the recommendations from the review.
Although the president and CEO sat together to announce Teague’s sacking, Sayers told 3AW, when asked if he could guarantee Liddle and Lloyd would retain their positions, that nothing in life was guaranteed.
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