Ten board grilled by angry shareholders as AGM approves $200m loan



Network Ten’s directors faced harsh questions and heckling from shareholders in today’s Annual General Meeting as members questioned the ability of the network to drive revenue and improve declining ratings, before approving a new $200m loan.

Ten Network chairman Lachlan Murdoch opened the AGM with a speech that included a call on the government to be holistic in setting its upcoming media reforms, and as he did so a shareholder shouted out: “I don’t think you should be lecturing the government here.”

CEO Hamish McLennan admitted Ten’s ratings had been unacceptable in 2013, but said since its focus had shifted from 16-39s to 25-54s it had seen improvements and advertising had stabilised in recent months.

McLennan said the focus would be on ratings, revenue and return to shareholders in 2014.

However his commitment to the struggling network, which ranked fourth behind the ABC in the ratings this year, was called into question by Alan Golden, of the Australian Shareholders Association, who said McLennan should resign from his role as chairman of the real estate REA Group to focus on a turnaround at Ten.

However, Murdoch gave his support for McLennan who said the CEO’s focus has been “Herculean” since joining the network in March following the sacking of former CEO James Warburton.

“Neither I nor the board has seen a lack of commitment or time or focus on the business of Network Ten,” Murdoch said.

Murdoch was also asked about his own commitment to the Ten board, given his involvement on the boards of News Corp and Fox.

Shareholders also fired direct questions at board members seeking re-election and about the $200m financing facility guaranteed by its three major shareholders.

The new $200m loan backed by Ten’s three biggest shareholders – Bruce Gordon, Lachlan Murdoch and James Packer – was approved by shareholders who overwhelmingly agreed the “covenant light” loan was the best option for the struggling network with approval from 95 per cent of shareholders before the paper vote was taken into account.

Megan Reynolds


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