Farewell, James Warburton: Seven West Media CEO’s last day in the office

James Warburton

There is slightly less controversy around this departure for Warburton… a move he announced last year.

James Warburton is expected to clear out his desk at Seven West Media today, Thursday 18 April. The media boss revealed his decision to stand down in December 2023.

Taking over from Warburton is the business’ CFO Jeff Howard.

James Warburton and Jeff Howard

James Warburton and Jeff Howard

This is the second time Warburton has left the network. There’s less controversy surrounding this departure.

On 2 March 2011, James Warburton, then a Seven sales executive, signed a written contract with Network 10 to commence employment on 14 July 2011 and informed Seven the same day that he had signed with the rival network.

Seven immediately instructed Warburton to leave the premises and to not contact staff or clientele.

Seven then successfully went to the Supreme Court of New South Wales to enforce Warburton’s restraints of trade to prevent him from commencing employment with Network 10 until 14 October 2012, 12 months after the cessation date of his employment contract.

In 2024, Warburton steps away before his departure deadline of 30 June. But in a carefully worded decision last year, the business did note “James will leave on or before 30 June”. The TV business has recently been all over the media for a number of misdemeanours. Warburton recently sent an email to staff saying, in part, “We take issue with the allegations recently made about our conduct”.

David Leckie

David Leckie


Seven’s Hall of Fame

For the past 20 years, Seven had four long-term chief executives – David Leckie, Tim Worner, and James Warburton. It was also led by the first woman to head a commercial TV network – Maureen Plavsic (Paramount ANZ’s Beverley McGarvey became the second).

That’s a little cheeky as it doesn’t address the contribution of Don Voelte, who was in the chair briefly between Leckie and Worner.

Leckie moved to Seven after an impressive career at Nine. He brought with him the magic touch which helped Nine own the #1 ratings spot.

Worner worked under Leckie at Seven and moved into the top job from production and programming. Dramas and reality TV on air were Worner’s specialty. He even managed to survive an off-air drama too, as the chairman Kerry Stokes stood by him after what both labelled a serious misstep.

Tim Worner

FTA TV CEO Hall of Fame: 2000-2024

Kerry Stokes (acting, later executive chairman)
Maureen Plavsic
David Leckie
Don Volte
Tim Worner
James Warburton
Jeff Howard

David Leckie
David Gyngell
Sam Chisholm
Eddie McGuire
Ian Johnson
David Gyngell
Hugh Marks
Mike Sneesby

Network 10
John McAlpine
Grant Blackley
Lachlan Murdoch (acting, later chairman)
James Warburton
Russel Howcroft (acting, 11 days)
Hamish McLennan
Paul Anderson
Beverley McGarvey and Jarrod Villani
Beverley McGarvey

The Warburton years at Seven

The acquisition and integration of Prime into Seven made it the leading national total television network.

Seven is #1 in revenue with a 40%+ national share.

In the past five years, there was significant transformation from traditional to digital – which made up 2% of earnings in 2019 and 50% in 2024.

The business paid down debt and onerous contracts by $491 million – now it has the lowest debt level in SWM’s history.

Secured AFL rights for nine more years, with digital rights from 2025.

Secured the cricket rights until 2031, including the digital rights.

Sold Pacific Magazines for $40 million at six times earnings plus contra package.

Sold Airtasker stake post IPO for $45 million.

Secured NBCU/Bravo deal, which now makes up 15% of minutes on 7plus.

Implemented changes at Sunrise, with Natalie Barr replacing Sam Armytage and Matt Shirvington replacing David Koch.

TV Week Logie Awards moved from Nine to Seven. Sam Pang hosts and the 2023 event records the best audience in five years.

Warburton pushed hard to secure Total Television measurement. Industry moves to national VOZ data.

James Warburton ranked #1 on the Mediaweek 100 in 2023.

James Warburton with Seven colleagues at Mediaweek 100 event in 2023

See also:
James Warburton’s memo to Meta: No one likes bullies (and they don’t win)
James Warburton on ad market recovery: Seven is “absolutely set to explode”

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