James Warburton’s immediate future at Network Ten has been confirmed today by a ruling of the NSW Supreme Court.
Network Ten had originally announced that Mr Warburton would start at the free-to-air network on July 14 this year, however the Seven Network challenged this date in the NSW Supreme Court by arguing that Mr Warburton’s existing contract with Seven and participation in its management equity plan meant he could not start as Ten’s new Chief Executive Officer until October 2012.
Justice Pembroke in today’s decision held that Mr Warburton could not start at Ten until 1 January 2012. Mr Warburton was also ordered by the Court to pay 70% of Seven’s legal costs.
According to a report in the Australian, outside the NSW Supreme Court, Mr Warburton said ”I am happy to start at Ten on the 1st”.
In response to the Court’s decision, Seven Media Group issued a press release, as follows:
Seven Media Group welcomed today the decision of the Supreme Court of NSW upholding the action it instituted against James Warburton to enforce the restraint contained in the Management Equity Plan (MEP) document that he signed along with other senior executives of Seven in 2007.
Contracts are important in our business and it is our policy to enforce them consistently.
Seven also welcomed the dismissal of Mr Warburton’s cross claim and the decision on costs.
Chief Executive Officer David Leckie said “I am glad the date when James can commence with Network Ten has been determined and that his cross claim has been dismissed. He was a valuable member of the Seven team. We wish him good luck.”
Ten Network Holdings have issued a press release commenting on today’s outcome at the NSW Supreme Court, as follows:
Ten Network Holdings Limited (‘Ten Holdings’) today acknowledged the decision of Justice Pembroke in the Supreme Court of New South Wales setting the commencement date for James Warburton as CEO of Ten Holdings at 1 January 2012. The decision was made in the legal proceedings brought by Seven Network (Operations) Limited (‘Seven’) against Mr Warburton.
Ten Holdings Chairman, Brian Long, said: “We now have certainty about James’s starting date and, while we are disappointed it has been delayed, the business continues to benefit from the actions being taken by interim CEO Lachlan Murdoch.”
“Lachlan is driving a focussed and aggressive change agenda. We are already seeing results, including action on costs, cross-platform and integrated sales, a successfully re-launched ONE and improvements in News,” Mr Long said.
“There will be a smooth transition between Lachlan and James, and the strategies underway will accelerate our growth plans.”
As announced on 1 April 2011, the Supreme Court of New South Wales dismissed the legal proceedings brought by Seven against Ten Holdings, ordering Seven to pay Ten Holdings’ legal costs on a full indemnity basis.
This post updates.