Friday, February 22, 2013

TEN in crisis as James Warburton walks plank as chief executive

In a new crisis for the Ten Network, James Warburton was tonight sacked as chief executive.

The troubled television network says Mr Warburton, who was controversially recruited from the rival Seven Network, had been "given notice of termination."

A statement from chairman Lachlan Murdoch said Mr Warburton's sacking was effective immediately and he would be replaced by News Corporation executive Hamish McLennan who will join Ten next month.

James Warburton was recruited from Seven amid fanfare and legal action that delayed his appointment until January 2012.

Mr Warburton was forced to take "gardening leave" after a non-compete clause in his Seven contract was enforced, meaning his Ten career rivalled his time between jobs.

Mr Warburton's tenure at Ten was dragged down by a weak advertising market, poor ratings and full year loss of $12.9 million in October last year.

Ten has also suffered a share price plunge from $1.44 per share in April 2010 to 29 cents at the close of trade on Friday.

Despite the brutal nature of the sacking, chairman Lachlan Murdoch praised the man he lured - to the anger of Seven chairman Kerry Stokes and then chief executive David Leckie.

"The Board would like to thank James Warburton for his hard work and contribution during what has been a difficult period for the Company and for the broader media sector. He steps down with TEN’s best wishes," Mr Murdoch said.

Mr Murdoch signalled he is putting hopes of a turnaround in the hands of new chief executive Hamish McLennan.

“The Board is delighted to have been able to attract a world class CEO with a strong track record to lead TEN," Mr Murdoch said.

Ten's executive general manager Russel Howcroft will act as chief executive until Mr McLennan assumes the top job.

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