Seven West Media has consigned 2017’s biggest media story – Seven CEO, Tim Worner’s, extramarital affair with former employee, Amber Harrison – pretty much to the annals of the dustbin.
At yesterday’s annual shareholder meeting, the company’s chairman, Kerry Stokes, told assembled media and investors that: “Your company acted professionally and appropriately in the handling of a matter involving a former employee.”
Harrison immediately fired back via Twitter: “There is nothing professional or appropriate about how the decision makers in this company behave.”
Seven, of course, spent much of the first half of the year dragging Harrison through the courts while she, herself, tried to sue the broadcaster for bullying and failing to provide a safe workplace.
Ultimately, Seven’s lawyers were successful in placing a permanent gag order on Harrison, while the legal proceedings bankrupted her. It has been reported that Seven’s legal bill throughout the entire murky affair tallied to more than $1.2 million.
Stokes, it has been reported, has steadfastly stood by Worner for fear he’d jump ship – and take Seven’s top talent – over to the embattled Ten Network.
At yesterday’s AGM, Seven chiefs announced a range of cost-cutting measure and $25 million worth of staff cuts to appease shareholders who’d endured not only the Worner scandal but a record low share price for 2017.
Following from the theme of last Friday’s Upfronts, Worner told the AGM that his priority for the network was to retain its number one position in both profitability and audience ratings.
“Our primary measure is profit,” Worner said. “Leaner and more agile must be our mantra.”
When it came to mergers and acquisitions following the passing of the media reforms, Stokes told yesterday’s crowd that CBS’ potential takeover of Ten had put a “pause button” on media players making any moves.
Interestingly, there had been reports that Stokes was prepared to sell Seven West Media if he could find a buyer at the right price.
Stokes also baulked at suggestions Seven were in negotiations with a possible merger with News Corp or Fairfax.
“In regard to News, we work very closely with News in lots of different areas and we find them first class partners in the areas we do co-operate in. We’ve had no discussion with them or with Fairfax on any merger or transaction,” Stokes said.
“Our focus has been a little bit different, we put together the West and Seven in Perth, and we are still on that journey because we put the newsrooms together but we still haven’t extracted the values we expected to get of them coming together.
“At the moment we have two newsrooms, we want to create a combined one purpose newsroom, which is the path we are going down. If we are correct and that works, we think there’ll be a value proposition that will make that a much better opportunity.”