Hamish McLennan Steps Down as CEO, Chairman of Australian Broadcaster Ten

Hamish McLennan H

The departure of the onetime Murdoch advisor comes one month after News Corp’s Foxtel announced a deal to acquire a stake in Ten.

Hamish McLennan, the executive chairman and CEO of Australia’s third ranked commercial broadcaster, Network Ten, said Monday he was stepping down from his dual roles at the company, with chief financial officer Paul Anderson appointed CEO and independent director David Gordon named chairman in McLennan’s place. The changes are effective immediately.

McLennan’s departure comes two years and three months into the job and follows the announcement last month of pay-TV giant Foxtel’s acquisition of a 14.9 percent stake in Ten and the broadcaster’s tie up with ad sales outfit, Multichannel Network (MCN). Foxtel is half owned by News Corp.

In a statement, McLennan said: "The strategic arrangements announced on June 15, including the proposed investment by Foxtel in Ten and the transformative agreement with MCN, mean that my role is complete.

"An independent Chairman is needed to lead the Board through the next phase of the Company’s development. David Gordon has been an exceptional Director and his contribution has always been of the highest standard. He will represent all shareholders very well," he said.

McLennan, a onetime adviser to media mogul Rupert Murdoch and executive vp at News Corp., was named as CEO at Ten when Lachlan Murdoch was chairman in 2013. He steered the company through a tumultuous time as it sought to rebuild its ratings and revenue shares from near historic lows. More recently, he guided the company through a nine month long auction process, which culminated in the June announcement of Foxtel’s investment in the broadcaster.

Some local reports suggest McLennan’s departure is a move by Ten and Foxtel to "de-Murdochize" the broadcaster and ensure that the Foxtel investment in Ten isn’t scuppered by the antitrust regulator here. Lachlan Murdoch remains a shareholder in Ten through a private investment.   

This year Ten has seen growth in its prime time audience of 15 percent and has grown its share of TV ad revenue from 20.1 per cent to 21.9 percent year on year.

Those increases have been fuelled by the introduction of new reality shows including local versions of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here and The Bachelor and the revamp of older formats like Masterchef Australia. Ten has program supply agreements with CBS and 21st Century Fox.

McLennan will continue to advise Gordon and Anderson during the transition and will assist the company until the end of the year.

Gordon, a former mergers and acquisitions partner at top level Australian law firm Freehills, has been a non executive director of Ten since 2010. Incoming CEO Paul Anderson has been with Ten since 2003 and since 2011 has been chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

The appointment of a new chairman is part of the board changes announced under the Foxtel deal in June, which will see the board reduced in size to six directors. The Board will then comprise two independent directors (one of whom will be Chairman), one representative of Foxtel and three representatives of existing major shareholders.