Industry speculates Premiere CEO forced out

Replacement Mark Williams unlikely to stay long-term

MUNICH -- A day after the surprise resignation of Michael Boernicke as CEO of German pay TV operation Premiere, speculation has been rife that the former Leo Kirch executive was forced out in favor of Mark Williams, head of European and Asian operations at News Corp.

News Corp. is Premiere's biggest shareholder, with its stake now at more than 25%.

A Premiere spokesman confirmed Thursday that Williams is unlikely to remain in his new position long-term. "He will work as part of the Premiere team to ... create a basis for future growth before returning to News Corp.," the spokesman said. "There's no timeline for that."

German law requires Williams to either return to or give up his seat on the Premiere supervisory board within 12 months of switching over to management, according to the spokesman.

He had no comment on the reports that Boernicke's sudden resignation was not for personal reasons. But, he said, "The mood here is good. Mark Williams built up Australia's pay TV business and has doubled the number of subscribers at Sky Italia," where he is a member of the management board. "So we're very happy to have an expert at the helm," the spokesman added.