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Seven in crisis

Seven West Media board met yesterday to address the now-public scandal embroiling its CEO Tim Worner, as the company’s shares plummeted by nearly $100m.

Headlines continue today disclosing sordid details of a consensual relationship between Worner and former employee Amber Harrison, 35.

Harrison was an employee of Pacific Magazines when they met in 2012 while Worner was CEO of Seven Network, but yet to take the top office at Seven West Media.

It ended in 2014 beginning a long and protracted series of negotiations which has resulted in Harrison going public.

Worner has apologised in a statement issued yesterday.

“This relationship finished some years ago and I apologised at the time, and am still trying to make amends,” he said.

“I am obviously filled with the deepest regret and shame. My focus is to continue to work through this in private and minimise the distress to my family. They are the most important people in the world to me and I will continue to fight to repair the damage I’ve caused.”

While office romances are nothing new in media, the lewd details spilling into the press make this one of the year’s biggest media stories at a time everybody thought 2016 was done and dusted. While it takes two to tango, it is understandably the CEO attracting all the attention.

For a CEO some of the allegations are explosive and at-odds with the family values led by chairman Kerry Stokes. Thus far the network is backing its man, even insisting yesterday it would not be fulfilling payments following a breach of confidentiality. Those are the least of its worries right now with reputation and share price in freefall.

Today there is speculation about other employees and even illegal activities -so far those have been denied by the network. They allege meetings, texts, venues and the network damage-control.

Headlines are spinning phrases such as “Seven sex scandal,” “Explicit text messages,” “From family man to executive affair,” “Network stands by disgraced CEO”, “Sex, drugs, and shareholders’ money” “Seven West Media sees $100m fall in value,” “Banging the boss is not your job,” “Saucy reality show unravelled” and “New sex claims.”

Traditionally a network does not comment on the private lives of those under extreme scrutiny, but its hand was forced yesterday as media rifled through allegations and shares plummeted. And when talent is the subject of dishonourable conduct they usually pay the price, if backed initially by a network.

But Worner has a long history at Seven as a masterful Programmer and successful CEO, navigating the changing media landscape for the company. Until this week he has been highly-regarded in the industry, including receiving the MIPTV Médaille d’Honneur Award in Cannes in 2014.

It’s unlikely the 6 week business course he undertook in the US prior to taking the CEO job prepared for anything like this.

Seven’s statement says the “inappropriate” and “improper behavior” is not a part of Seven’s culture.

Kerry Stokes has told Worner it was “completely unacceptable.”

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