Ten and Seven head to court after programmer John Stephens elects to stay with former employer

TenNetwork Ten’s latest hire of John Stephens has erupted in a legal battle with the Seven Network after the veteran programmer decided to stay with his former employer.

Stephens had signed a contract with Ten to join the network as director of scheduling and acquisitions earlier this month, however he then decided to stay with the Seven Network where he has worked since 2003.

As a result Ten started legal action against Seven, accusing the rival network of inducing him to breach his new contract with them.

An interim injunction was obtained by Ten on Friday preventing Seven from inducing Stephens to breach the contract. However that injunction was not extended by Justice Paul Brereton in the NSW Supreme Court yesterday and Ten was ordered to pay Seven’s costs, as Stephens was granted permission to return to his work at Seven.

The judge also ordered an expediated hearing expected to be held in around five weeks, and to be the start of a long dispute.

A Ten spokesman said: “The case is about Seven inducing John Stephens to breach his contract with Ten. Indeed, today Justice Paul Brereton said there is a seriously arguable case that Seven has engaged in conduct that constitutes an interference with Ten’s agreement with John Stephens.”

CEO Hamish McLennan had said Stephens was a “critically important addition” as the network seeks to bounce back from some of its poorest ratings on record despite a brighter start to the year.

Seven has not responded to requests for comment.

Megan Reynolds


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