Seven and Ten in war over CEO

Channel Seven considered keeping its senior executive James Warburton on full pay for months "under the watchful eye of the chairman" but without requiring him to work, after learning he was defecting to head up rival Network Ten, a court was told.

The NSW Supreme Court was told that Seven pondered having Warburton, Seven's former chief sales and digital officer, remain working at the network but sit in an office without any access to other members of staff.

This "regime of splendid isolation" would occur for the remaining seven months and nine days of Warburton's contract and in the "full glare" of the public, after Seven heard that he had accepted the chief executive's job at Ten.

The evidence emerged during cross-examination of Seven group general manager human resources Samantha Liston on Friday.

Seven Group Holdings Ltd has taken legal action in a bid to delay Warburton starting his new job as chief executive of Ten Network Holdings Ltd.

Ten announced Warburton's appointment as chief executive on March 2, with a start date of July 14.

But Seven has argued that conditions in Warburton's employment contract and participation in a management equity plan (MEP) meant that Warburton had to wait until October 2012 before starting work with any other media company.

Warburton has launched a cross-claim against his former employer, alleging that Seven wrongfully repudiated his contract.

Warburton's barrister, John West QC, described the proposition -- that his client sit outside chairman Kerry Stokes' office for more than seven months with potentially nothing to do except wait for instructions -- as outrageous and unfair.

Asked for a response, Liston said: "I disagree."

Liston said Warburton may have been asked to work on strategies or sales work for Seven's related companies.

The other option being discussed among senior Seven executives in response to Warburton's departure was for him to stay home and not come into the office, the court heard.

The case before Justice Michael Pembroke is scheduled to resume on April 11, with Seven Media Group chief executive David Leckie expected to take the witness stand.

Ten shares closed up three cents at $1.345, while Seven ended four cents higher at $9.22.

Comments (1)
Apr 11, 2011
Big deal it just means we as viewers will get screwed over either way again