Warburton’s out – So, who’s running Seven now?

As widely suspected, Seven West Media reshuffled the deck this week, with CEO and managing director James Warburton stepping out effectively immediately on Thursday, and chief financial officer Jeff Howard moving into the role.

Warburton (pictured above, with Howard) announced his resignation in December, with plans to leave by the end of the financial year. Yesterday’s board meeting saw Warburton exit — after the markets closed, of course — with Seven appointing Craig Haskins as acting CFO “until a successor for Mr Howard can be announced”.

Howard had been CFO of Seven since January 2020, before which he held the same role at HT&E Limited for eight years, “delivering strategic financial leadership while executing on strategy and driving shareholder value”.

He is a chartered accountant, spending a decade in banking, at ABN AMRO and RBS, and the prior decade at KPMG.

Haskins comes from Eastern Hill Advisors, and was already working with Seven – he is listed as the contact for Investors/Analysts in the company’s full-year results. He is also an advisory board member of Merricks Capital, and a non-executive director of global insurance group, Enstar.

Jeff Howard

Previously, Haskins was investor relations director at Ingham’s Group for a year, managing director of Jefferies Australia, and held senior capital markets roles within Credit Suisse, UBS, and Merrill Lynch.

Other major players at Seven include chief revenue officer Kurt Burnett — “responsible for growing the company’s current revenue streams and establishing new revenue opportunities”, vital when you have a $250m debt — and CMO Mel Hopkins, who will be particular handy during this transition, having jumped from the burning tyre fire of Optus last February, after spending six-and-a-half years in various executive roles across marketing and communications.

Earlier this week, responding to Seven’s reputational backlash, Hopkins described herself as “a seasoned senior leader who has worked globally and navigated many businesses through complex challenges, reputational challenges and crises”. She will be needed.

Mel Hopkins

Out West, where Seven holds a newspaper monopoly, Maryna Fewster is CEO of Seven West Media West Australia, a role she has held since 2018, initially spending time at the company as a board consultant in 2015, then as COO. Before this, she spent close to two decades at telcos, holding the chief operating officer at iiNet.

Also holding considerable power in WA is Anthony De Ceglie, editor in chief of The West Australian, Perth Now, and newly-minted daily digital newspaper The Nightly — not to mention 19 regional newspapers and 12 suburban newspapers that operate in the state.

Anthony De Ceglie

At the top sits Kerry Stokes, one of the last in a dying breed of Hearst-style media magnates, with more awards, honours, and initials attached to his name than I’m sure even he is aware of – the most amusing of which is his Honorary Fellowship at Murdoch University.

Stokes is the current chairman, but the succession plan will likely see his son, Ryan, take the mantle soon, who has spent close to 12 years on the board, and is current managing director and CEO of Seven Group Holdings, of which he has been a director since 2010.

In this role, the younger Stokes controls Boral (SGH owns 72.6%), Coates, and WesTrac, and is director of Beach Energy – so, why not chuck Seven West Media on his plate, too?

For now, everyone will be watching Howard as he slides into the top job at Seven West Media. He has stepped in a role that contains, according to Hopkins, “complex challenges, reputational challenges, and crises”.

None of Seven’s executive team were available for comment when contacted by Mumbrella.


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