The Seven network office romance scandal has come back to bite Seven West CEO Tim Worner with the board of the media group slicing $455,000 from his annual pay packet.
The news, released with the company’s annual results on Wednesday, came as his former lover and Seven executive assistant, Amber Harrison, launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay the legal bills over her battle with Seven that threaten to bankrupt her.
Ms Harrison aims to raise $200,000 through GoFundMe with a campaign entitled ‘Amber Harrison: Guilt-free TV’.
As of Wednesday evening, the website had received just over $5500 in pledges.
Mr Worner, who earned $2.74 million in the June year, saw his cash bonus slashed to zero from $500,000 a year before. But an increase in other benefits saw his overall salary down $455,000 from the previous $3.19 million.
That pay cut came as Seven West reported a $745 million loss after it wrote down the value of the Seven network, its newspapers and other assets by $988.8 million
Mr Worner put the pay cut in this light. “In my own case I just feel as though it hasn’t been a stellar year for the company and, as such, I didn’t ask to be considered for a bonus,” he said.
However when pushed by ABC on Seven’s highly public battle with Ms Harrison over the settlement deal made after the affair turned sour, he conceded it could have been an influence.
“I guess there are various ways that we would measure the health of our brand.”
Ms Harrison’s campaign page calls for support from Seven viewers.
“For just $1, enjoy Guilt-free TV and you could enjoy Seven’s shows, knowing your favourite network didn’t bankrupt anyone.”
Ms Harrison walked away from her battle with Seven last month after agreeing to a permanent gag order preventing her speaking about the company and her affair with Mr Worner.
The issue became public when she spoke out in December 2016 by revealing embarrassing details of her affair with Mr Worner.
When the Seven board first became aware of the affair, in 2014, it pruned $100,000 from Mr Worner’s pay packet but kept the news in-house. That was around the time Ms Harrison left the company.
Steve Allen. a media analyst with Fusion Strategy, told The New Daily that the public scandal could have affected Mr Worner’s performance.
“If you go back before last December, dealing with an affair between the CEO and his executive could have distracted him,” he said.
However Seven was likely to want to hold on to its CEO in the future.
“People like Worner and (former Seven CEO David) Leckie are rare birds who understand programming and have a sixth sense of what the viewing public look for,” Mr Allen said.
The whole media industry “didn’t think the weakness in revenues would endure but it did”, he added.
“It’s the new reality. Seven might have to look at writing down the value of sporting rights in the future.”
Mr Worner told the results briefing that Seven’s human resources policies had not been updated as a result of his office affair with Ms Harrison.