James Warburton said to be leaving Seven next week

James Warburton

Warburton originally advised his intention was to step down from the top job at the end of FY24.

After nearly five years in the role, Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton will be finishing up next week, on 18 April. The news of his imminent departure was reported in The AFR on Monday morning.

When news originally broke that current chief financial officer Jeff Howard would be moving into the top spot, Warburton advised his intention to step down from the top job at the end of FY24.

A Seven spokesperson told Mediaweek: “As Seven said in December, James will leave on or before 30 June this year.”

Howard will be presenting the FY24 12 months results in August 2024.

During his time with Seven, Warburton secured an extension of its AFL agreement, a deal that will last until the end of the 2031 season, and is worth $4.5 billion – the biggest broadcast deal in Australian history. The current contract is set to expire at the end of the 2024 season.

He also secured a deal tying up FTA cricket with the network for the next seven years, including streaming for the first time. Under Warburton, the network also secured coverage of the Matildas at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

During his final months in the role, Warburton has been a vocal member of the group lobbying for changes to proposed sports anti-siphoning laws.

In March, Seven released a consumer-facing campaign urging the government to give Aussies access to free sports content on digital platforms. 

The “We are Aussies, of course I want free sport” campaign highlights the details of the current Bill before parliament, which only protects Australians’ access to free sport via broadcast TV but not if they watch TV through the internet – specifically via an app like 7plus. 

See Also: Seven ramps up sports anti-siphoning lobbying with consumer-facing campaign for digital access

The leadership transition isn’t the only reason for Seven’s presence in the headlines this week, with the handover coming on the heels of ex-Spotlight producer Taylor Auerbach taking to the stand in Bruce Lehrmann‘s defamation case against Network 10 and Lisa Wilkinson.

The case was re-opened at the eleventh hour after Auerbach provided sworn affidavits that allege the Seven show was provided with thousands of pages of confidential documents that Lehrmann had in an “e-brief” for his criminal trial, but which were not tendered in court.

He also claimed he was asked to “delete any materials that could be damaging for Seven”, and that the network had paid for “perks” for Lehrmann including $10,300 on Thai massages, several expensive dinners, and a $401.83 round of golf in Tasmania.

Auerbach also alleges that in January 2023, “Monies paid by the applicant for illicit drugs and prostitutes… at a brothel in Surry Hills were reimbursed to the applicant by Seven.”  

See Also: Copied documents and financial perks: Lehrmann judgment delayed as new evidence emerges

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