Packer quits Ten

TV up­heaval has in­sider ru­mours fly­ing

Townsville Bulletin - - Investor -

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

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