Packer quits Ten
TV upheaval has insider rumours flying
JAMES Packer has s urprised observers by quitting the board of Ten Network Holdings Ltd less than three months after joining.
Mr Packer’s departure from the Ten board is effective immediately, while his friend Lachlan Murdoch will remain a director of the broadcaster.
An analyst who did not want to be named said Mr Packer’s move could be because a bigger deal was under way where there was a conflict of interest between his pay-TV assets, Ten and the competition regulator.
Mr Packer is the deputy chairman of Consolidated Media Holdings Ltd, a major shareholder in pay-TV operator Foxtel, which is understood to be targeting smaller rival Austar for a takeover.
Mr Packer joined the Ten board in mid-December last year , along with Mr Murdoch, about two months after Mr Packer snapped up a substantial stake in the broadcaster with bullish comments about the future of free to air television and Ten’s multi-channel strategy. Mr Packer in November sold half of his interest in Ten to Mr Murdoch, who has been Ten’sacting c hi e f executive since late Feb- ruary, following the sacking of Grant Blackley after less than three months in the role. Mr Packer and Mr Murdoch together hold 17.88 per cent of Ten.
Ten also yesterday announced the appointment of Seven’s chief sales and digital officer since July 2008, James Warburton, as Ten’s new chief executive, effective July 14.
Seven said yesterday it was sorry to lose Mr Warburton.
‘‘ We’ll be making some announcements in the coming days that will underline and confirm the strength and depth of our management team across Seven Media Group,’’ Seven said.
Fat Prophets i ndustrial analyst Greg Fraser said Mr Warburton had been the prime candidate to succeed Seven chief executive David Leckie whose contract runs out in mid-2012.
But it’s understood Mr Leckie will remain in the role beyond that date, with West Australian Newspaper Holdings Ltd’s bid for Seven under way.
‘‘ It seems with the West/ Seven Media Group formation, David Leckie is staying on for a little longer than James Warburton would have liked,’’ Mr Fraser said.
‘‘ That perhaps made him vulnerable to the approach .’’
Mr Fraser said Mr Warburton would probably seek to remove the broadcaster’s new evening news format.
Ten credited Mr Murdoch for introducing Mr Warburton to the network.
Mr Murdoch said he knew Mr Warburton well and believed he would lead Ten with great success.
Ten chairman Brian Long said Mr Warburton was ‘‘ a high calibre media executive with an enviable track record in television and digital media sales’’.
Mr Warburton would be paid $ 2.2 million per year, with up to an additional 50 per cent of that amount based on financial and non-financial performance hurdles, according to Ten sources.
Mr Warburton will also be entitled to an incentive of up to 50 per cent of his fixed annual remuneration.
Shares in Ten were down 1.5 cents at $ 1.31.
EXIT: James Packer’s departure from the Ten Network board is effective immediately