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Seven launches inquiry into Worner affair

Business

Seven West Media says it will have an independent inquiry into damaging allegations made by a former employee who had an affair with network CEO Tim Worner in a bid to allay shareholder concerns.

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In only its second public statement on the scandal since it was reported on Monday, Seven West told the stock exchange its board supports Worner but took “very seriously” allegations raised by former executive assistant Amber Harrison, which have been widely publicised in media reports.

Seven West says its board has met on four occasions this week to consider the allegations, which include claims of drug use.

The company said it supported the decisions surrounding Harrison’s termination two years ago following an investigation into credit card misuse.

It said it became aware of the affair two years ago and the new inquiry would determine whether all necessary matters were taken into account.

“The Board continues to support the CEO, and the processes and decisions made based on the information at the time Ms Amber Harrison’s credit card misuse, and subsequently the existence of her relationship with the CEO, was brought to the attention of the company two years ago,” the company said in the statement.

“At the time, the Board appointed an independent accounting firm to establish the facts behind the misuse of Ms Harrison’s corporate credit card and to produce a comprehensive report. It was this report that lead to Ms Harrison’s termination and a settlement agreement being reached by the parties.

“However, to allay any concerns that our shareholders may have the Board has determined it prudent to commission a further independent inquiry to establish all of the facts so as to confirm that all necessary matters have been and were taken into account.”

The board said it would appoint an “appropriate independent expert to undertake the inquiry.

Earlier in the week the Australian Shareholders’ Association called on Seven West’s board to start planning for Worner’s exit from the top job next year, saying the controversy around his affair with Harrison cannot be put to rest while he retains his position.

ASA director Stephen Mayne said the reputational damage to Seven West would not be fully resolved until the company has a new CEO and said the succession plan is “something they should progress in 2017”.

“We are not saying that Tim Worner should be marched out of the building but we are saying that Seven needs to activate its succession management plans in 2017,” Mayne said.

“It’s hard to see how an issue like this can be fully put behind Seven in the medium term with the CEO in place.”

– with AAP

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