Of all the juicy tidbits to come out of the ongoing Amber Harrison affair fiasco at Seven would have to be the board’s – and chairman Kerry Stokes’ – steadfast commitment to CEO, Tim Worner.
After all, the scandal’s cost the broadcaster a bomb in termination payouts and QC fees, not to mention the damage to both its and Worner’s reputation. On Friday, a judge ordered the two parties into mediation.
However, it can now be revealed that Seven stuck by its embattled CEO for fear he’d jump ship to arch-rival, the Ten Network.
An article in today’s The Australian Financial Review quotes a “person familiar with Mr Stokes’ thinking” and suggests that by backing Worner the network not only saved him from leaving to go to a rival, it was also a show to shareholders that profit was more important than personalities.
The identity quoted described Worner as “the greatest programmer and producer in Australia”.
According to The AFR, Seven was desperate to hold onto its decade-long dominance over Channel Nine and that could be in jeopardy if Worner left for a rival network.
It speculated that News Corp executives had even sounded out Worner to run Ten (News owns 15 per cent of the embattled broadcaster); however, this was before the now infamous affair went public back in December.
The problem, it suggested, was compounded by dearth of talent in Australia capable of running complex television businesses.
And it would’ve taken some talent and plus some to pull Ten out of its current woes. On Thursday, the Ten Network announced revenues were down $232 million for the first six months of the financial year.
Following the news, its shares plunged 25 per cent and analysts described the business – which it valued at less than $100 million – as “un-investible”.
Such is the network’s plight, it’s being held-up by injections of cash from its billionaire owners that include Bruce Gordon, Gina Rinehart and James Packer, as well as stakeholder Foxtel and News’ Lachlan Murdoch.
It presently has a a $200 million loan facility with the Commonwealth Bank, however, that ends in December and new financiers will need to be found. Auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers noted: “These conditions, along with other matters set forth…indicate that a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the consolidated entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
There has also been reports that Ten is looking to merge with the News-owned Sky which would see Ten’s newsrooms culled.