Seven West Media chief executive Tim Worner has resigned with immediate effect after six years at the top of Australia’s number one television network.
He will be replaced by James Warburton, who was sacked as managing director by the Ten board in 2013 when Lachlan Murdoch was the chairman.
Warburton, who was once chief digital and sales officer at Seven Media Group, went on to run APN Outdoor and V8 Supercars.
“All parties agree now is the time for change,” chairman Kerry Stokes said in a statement.
“This is an exciting time for Seven as we welcome James back to the company.
“James has extensive experience in the industry with knowledge across media, advertising, sports administration, marketing and particularly sales. His passion and energy will reinvigorate the team. We look forward to the contribution he will make.”
Warburton left Seven eight years ago to lead Ten after a successful stint as chief sales officer.
As well as the Seven network, the company owns West Australian Newspapers and Pacific Magazines.
“I am delighted to be returning to Seven and I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead to continue to build the business,” Warburton said.
“The foundation of the business is a powerful combination of assets underpinned by outstanding content from Seven Studios, News and our partners in AFL, cricket, horse racing and the Olympic Games.”
Worner’s sudden and unexpected exit precedes the full-year financial results next week.
He has led the network to number one in the ratings, surpassing Nine, with hits like My Kitchen Rules, first as head of television and then as chief executive.
“I know I speak on behalf of the board and all of our people in thanking Tim for his hard work,” Stokes said.
“Our industry is more dynamic today than ever, experiencing rapidly evolving market conditions which continue to present us with challenges and opportunities. In reviewing the requirements for the company, the board has been considering the right mix of skills and experience required to take advantage of opportunities and accelerate into its next phase of growth.
“Tim has been a tireless leader at Seven for more than two decades and has been chief executive officer for the past six years. All parties agree now is the time for change. We are fortunate that James was available to commence immediately.”
Stokes was loyal to Worner throughout the turmoil of his highly-publicised affair with former Seven staffer Amber Harrison, which led to a lengthy legal battle.
“It’s with mixed emotion that I tender my resignation; however Seven – a company I love – is a very different company now from the one I joined 25 years ago,” Worner said.
“It’s changed faster than ever in these last few years and that’s down to the hard work of the best team in the business. I sincerely thank the team and I wish them absolutely nothing but continued success.”