New Seven West chief vows to defy critics
New Seven West chief vows to defy critics

Seven West Media's new chief executive Don Voelte defended the embattled newspaper industry yesterday, declaring his company's mastheads led by _The West Australian _had a strong future.

The former Woodside Petroleum boss also hit back at those who said he did not have the relevant media experience for the top job.

Shareholders who deserted Seven West Media yesterday, when its shares fell 14 per cent to $1.70, would be proved wrong, he said.

Analysts said a combination of Mr Voelte's perceived inexperience, negative sentiment across the media sector and the departure of Seven West Media's chief executive David Leckie were the reasons for the company's share price fall.

"There have been people who have bet against me and my team and more times than not they are wrong," Mr Voelte said.

"So hopefully we can prove them wrong again with this diversity of thought and background experiences to mix them together and come up with the winning formula.

"I certainly don't doubt myself and I certainly don't doubt the management team I have inherited."

The ascension of Mr Voelte from non-executive director to chief executive yesterday puts an end to months of speculation about the future of long-serving Mr Leckie.

Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes said Mr Leckie would remain an executive director of stablemate Seven Group Holdings and be an adviser to Mr Voelte and Seven Network Television chief executive Tim Worner.

"David's track record confirms that he is undoubtedly the best television executive in Australia," Mr Stokes said.

He said Mr Voelte was internationally recognised as one of the world's best executives and had made a strong contribution to the development of the business as a director of Seven West Media.

"He is acknowledged for driving businesses in challenging and competitive markets," Mr Stokes said.

Mr Voelte paid tribute to Mr Leckie and said he would be "only too happy to parallel his success".

Mr Voelte had been on the board of WA Newspapers since late 2008 and with fellow director, Rio Tinto Iron Ore boss Sam Walsh, was instrumental in assessing WAN's merger with Seven Media Group.

Mr Voelte said opportunities the deal created were fascinating and the merged entity was yet to enjoy the full benefits of its synergies.

He said the biggest challenge for Seven West Media was the "ever changing delivery of product to viewers, readers and advertisers" and reaching their audiences.

He did not intend to throw money at "mundane, old pieces of the business" but would focus on productivity and making creativity pay.

"We very clearly think we have the strongest assets in the media industry," Mr Voelte said.

"We yesterday sold 195,000 newspapers in WA so we are going to build on our assets and deliver additional revenue streams, different ways to satisfy our viewers, our readers and our advertisers."

He said he believed in the company's mastheads and "we are not ready to abandon those at all".

The West Australian

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