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Seven CEO steps down in shock move

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Seven Network CEO James Warburton is leaving the company after four years at the helm. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The chief executive of one of Australia’s largest media companies is stepping down.

James Warburton, the CEO of Seven West Media, will leave his role at the end of the financial year in 2024.

The company announced his departure on Thursday.

“Kerry Stokes AC, chairman of Seven West Media, today announced the appointment of Jeff Howard as the incoming managing director and chief executive officer, succeeding James Warburton, who has advised his intention to step down from the role at the end of FY24,” the company said in a note to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Seven West Media managing director and chief executive officer, James Warburton, and chief financial officer, Jeff Howard, delivering the company's 2022 financial year results. Source: Seven West Media
Seven West Media managing director and chief executive officer, James Warburton, and chief financial officer, Jeff Howard, delivering the company's 2022 financial year results. Source: Seven West Media

Mr Howard is currently Seven’s chief financial officer and the transition will come into effect “in or before” June 30, 2024.

Mr Stokes said Mr Howard had “the right balance of skills” to deal with a dynamic and evolving media landscape.

“Having worked as SWM’s CFO since January 2020, he is well positioned to continue the momentum created by James. His commercial knowledge, passion and commitment will ensure a strong performance focus at this critical time of change and innovation for the industry,” he said.

Mr Howard said he was “delighted” to take the helm at the television giant.

“James is leaving SWM in a strong position to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. As we look to the next phase of growth in an ever-changing industry, our focus is on continuing to create great content to be the most connected news, sport and entertainment brand in Australia, while driving value for shareholders,” he said.

Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes made the announcement to the ASX on Thursday. Picture - Supplied
Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes made the announcement to the ASX on Thursday. Picture - Supplied

“Our strategy of premium audience generation and engagement across all of SWM’s platforms will remain at the forefront of everything we do.”

Mr Warburton spruiked Seven’s achievements during his four-year tenure as CEO, including the acquisition of long-term AFL and cricket TV streaming rights and what he called a “significant improvement” to the company’s balance sheet and digital earnings.

SWM’s central business is television, but it also owns The West Australian newspaper and will launch a new national news publication called The Nightly in 2024.

The company’s share price has struggled in 2023, declining 37.5 per cent year-to-date.

The business is currently trading at 25 cents a share for a market capitalisation of $388m.