Seven succession plans: Warburton out, Jeff Howard in and Stokes remains

James Warburton and Jeff Howard

Warburton has advised his intention to step down from the role at the end of FY24.

Kerry Stokes AC, Chairman of Seven West Media has announced the appointment of Jeff Howard as the incoming managing director and chief executive officer, succeeding James Warburton.

Warburton has advised his intention to step down from the role at the end of FY24.

Howard is currently chief financial officer of SWM. The transition will be effective on or before 30 June 2024. The search for a new SWM chief financial officer has commenced.

Earlier this year, Warburton topped Mediaweek’s 2023 Mediaweek 100 Power List.

After securing an extension of its AFL agreement last year, Seven under Warburton has secured its place as the FTA home of cricket in Australia with a deal tying up the sport for the next seven years. Those rights include streaming for the first time.

Under Warburton, the network also secured the Matildas at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Of the appointment, Stokes said: “Jeff has an immense depth of experience and exposure across the broad media industry and the right balance of skills to deal with a dynamic and evolving media landscape. Having worked as SWM’s chief financial officer since January 2020, he is well positioned to continue the momentum created by James. His commercial knowledge, passion and commitment will ensure a strong performance focus at this critical time of change and innovation for the industry.”

Howard said: “I am delighted to be taking on the role of managing director and chief executive officer, having worked with James for a number of years. James is leaving SWM in a strong position to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. As we look to the next phase of growth in an ever-changing industry, our focus is on continuing to create great content to be the most connected news, sport and entertainment brand in Australia, while driving value for shareholders. Our strategy of premium audience generation and engagement across all of SWM’s platforms will remain at the forefront of everything we do.”

The Chairman thanked Warburton for his contribution to the business, saying “On behalf of the Board and our people, I would like to thank James for his energy, enthusiasm and outstanding contribution. James came to SWM at a difficult time and has been immensely successful in reinvigorating Seven’s ratings, strengthening the balance sheet and setting Seven up for future success,” he said.

James Warburton said: “It has been an incredible journey at SWM and with an exceptionally talented team in place, the time is right for the company to take the next step. I take great pride in the transformation of SWM in recent years and its position as the leader in total TV in both ratings and revenue.

“A significant improvement in the balance sheet and digital earnings, underpinned by long-term AFL and cricket TV and streaming rights, and the acquisition of Prime have given the company a very strong future. I’ve now spent more than 15 years of my professional life working for Seven (in two stints) and I’d like to thank Kerry and Ryan Stokes, the other Directors and our major shareholders for the wonderful opportunity and their support.

“Jeff is an extremely talented leader and the transition to him will be seamless. I can’t think of a better person to lead the best media executive team in the business. While I look forward to the next chapter in my career, I am confident I am leaving SWM in excellent hands,” he said.

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