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'Now is the time for change': Seven CEO Tim Worner steps down, two years after scandal with assistant

Jack Derwin
  • In a shock announcement, Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner has announced he will step down immediately, after six years at the helm of the media group.
  • Announcing Worner's departure in a statement, chairman Kerry Stokes said, "All parties agree now is the time for change."
  • Worner had been at Seven for 25 years. His time had been marred by the 2016 revelation that he had carried on a two-year affair with a junior employee.

Seven West Media announced on Friday the resignation of CEO Tim Worner, effective immediately.

"Kerry Stokes AC, the Chairman of Seven West Media, today announced the appointment of James Warburton as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Seven West Media Limited, succeeding Tim Worner who has tendered his resignation," the company said in a statement.

It comes almost three years after Worner was revealed to have been involved in a two-year affair with Amber Harrison, a fellow employee of the company. At the time she was the 35-year-old executive assistant to Nick Chan, the then boss of Pacific Magazines. Worner was 51 years old.

An internal review conducted by Seven concluded in early 2017 that while Worner's behaviour at the time was "totally objectionable", his position was safe.

"Mr Worner has been disciplined by the chairman (Kerry Stokes) and the board and provided an undertaking this behaviour will not be repeated, as well as an apology,” the company said at the time.

"However, the board has concluded following the receipt of the independent report there are no grounds to take any further disciplinary action against Mr Worner beyond the action which was taken in 2014 when the company became aware of the inappropriate relationship ... the board has addressed all the issues that have been raised and is confident that Mr Worner will continue to run the company in the interests of all shareholders," it continued.

Friday's announcement did not explicitly state the reason Worner was leaving now.

"I would like to thank Kerry and the Board for the opportunity they provided me, and their ongoing support and counsel," Worner said. "It’s with mixed emotion that I tender my resignation, however, Seven – a company I love – is a very different company now from the one I joined 25 years ago."

Stokes used the announcement to thank Worner for his service.

"Tim has been a tireless leader at Seven for more than two decades and has been Chief Executive Officer for the past six years. All parties agree now is the time for change," Stokes said in the statement. "I know I speak on behalf of the Board and all of our people in thanking Tim for his hard work."

Warburton, a former Network Ten CEO, will assume his new role immediately.

According to Seven media outlets, he will be paid a fixed salary of $1.35 million a year, plus around the same amount again in short term bonuses. He will also be able to earn an additional $4.05 million in long-term bonuses if he meets certain Seven Media targets.

That means Warburton stands to earn as much as $6.75 million a year in the new role into which he has just been thrust.

More to come.