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Seven West Media sells Yahoo7 to Oath, with CEO Ed Harrison to exit

Seven West Media has sold its 50% stake in Yahoo7 to Verizon’s Oath.

The transaction, which will be completed in August, will see CEO Ed Harrison, chief finance officer Penny Diamantakiou, chief technology officer Paul Russell, and director of product, Mark Robinson all depart the company.

Yahoo was acquired by Verizon last year, which case doubt over the future of the partnership with Seven West Media

Yahoo7’s chief revenue officer, Paul Sigaloff, will be promoted to managing director of Oath AUNZ.

Both Harrison and Sigaloff have been with the company since 2014. The two executives joined Yahoo7 from Fairfax Media where they were group sales director and general manager of digital and national sales respectively.

Yahoo and Seven West Media’s joint venture began in 2006, after a number of attempts to develop a large-scale web presence. Those attempts included a partnership with AOL, under a platform known as AOL7.

Currently, Yahoo7’s websites include the homepage, 7News, 7Sport, Yahoo Finance, as well as lifestyle and entertainment destination Be. Yahoo7 also has an email portal, Yahoo7 Mail.

Oath’s current Australian portfolio includes includes HuffPost and ONE by AOL. The HuffPost Australia operation was reduced significantly late last year.

But doubt was cast over its future after Verizon confirmed its acquisition of Yahoo in July 2016. The $US4.8b takeover of Yahoo by the US telecommunications giant, which was completed last year, saw the combining of Yahoo and AOL, to form Oath.

At the time of the international acquisition Yahoo7 – which was then jointly owned by Verizon subsidiary Oath and Seven West Media – said the joint venture would continue. But at the same time, Seven West Media revealed the launch of its own long-form video platform and streaming service– now known as 7 Plus.

Yahoo7 CEO Ed Harrison is one of a number of key executives who will depart the company

More recently, Yahoo7 released an ambiguous press release telling the media it was restructuring to “harness the power of world-leading Oath technology”.

Following the press release, a number of redundancies were made.

The Guardian’s Amanda Meade reported around two-thirds of the 180 to 200 staff would be made redundant. In addition, the roles of head of sport and head of news were merged, with head of sport Cornell Vander Heyden leaving the company.

Homaira Razi, head of TV at Yahoo7, and up to eight full-time staff in the TV team also lost their jobs.

But since 2014, Yahoo7’s revenue and profit have been under pressure due to the ongoing weakness in online display advertising and 10% of the company’s workforce cut in a 2016 restructure.

Mumbrella understands Seven West Media’s announcement day, comes after it exercised a put option in the joint venture agreement earlier this month.

Today, Seven West Media’s chief executive officer, Tim Worner, said the selling of the company’s stake was a “natural next step” in Seven’s strategy to “control the distribution of monetisation” of its digital products.

However Mumbrella understands a new name of the Oath-owned company has not be confirmed. Discussions are currently in place around what will happen to 7News’ content, which still remains on the platform.

“We are proud of all that Yahoo7 has achieved since it launched in 2006 – from day one it has been at the forefront of Australian digital innovation. We leave it in great shape, with an audience of around nine million, and a strong future ahead of it. We wish the team the greatest success in all that they do,” Worner said.

“On behalf of everyone at Seven West Media, I want to recognise the remarkable achievements of Ed, Penny, Paul and Mark, and thank them for their hard work and commitment. They’ve built a powerhouse digital business that I have no doubt will go from strength to strength.”

Oath’s head of Asia Pacific, Rose Tsou, said simplifying the structure in Australia and New Zealand was a “big moment for Oath”.

“We see a huge amount of opportunity for growth through our global house of brands and technology platforms,” Tsou said.

“I would like to thank Seven West Media for being a great partner in working with us to build the Yahoo7 business in ANZ. We’re grateful that Ed, Penny, Paul and Mark will continue to work with us in the near term and we have Paul Sigaloff on board to drive our next exciting phase of growth for Oath.”

Details of the transaction will be disclosed once a settlement is reached.

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