The Seven Network is way behind Nine and Ten when it comes to profits so it is no surprise that CEO David Leckie, himself a man under pressure, has unveiled a sweeping management restructure to try and improve performance.

The Seven Network’s chief operating officer David Aspinall appears not to be rushing back the work.

Seven’s managing director, David Leckie issued a memo to all staff on Friday afternoon revealing a management restructure because of Aspinall’s continuing absence. You can read it here: http://www.crikey.com.au/images/2004/10/15-YXDQ0CW300.pdf

Aspinall has been on sick leave for several months, although he was well enough to give evidence in the early days of the now aborted trial of former fellow Bond executive, Tony Oates in Perth. Aspinall gave evidence in September about his recollections of certain dealings.

But he’s been sick with a bad middle ear infection that he has found hard to shake.

Seven sources say he is due back at work in either late December, but January 2005 would be a better bet. That would put him off work for around six months.

At one stage there was also a rumour that he was in some disfavour with the board because of delays to the construction of Seven’s new Martin Place studios in the heart of Sydney.

In his memo Leckie said “With the continuing absence of David Aspinall I have streamlined the management structure of the network so we are all more efficient”.

The upshot is that Ian Johnson, the former CEO of Nine after Leckie was sacked by Packer, and a former head of Nine’s GTV station in Melbourne, gains considerable more power.

He was head of GTV under Leckie when both were at Nine.

Johnson is now heading up HSV the Seven station in Melbourne based at Docklands at the Telstra Dome, which Seven owns.

Leckie said “the stations (in the Seven Network) will now all report to Ian Johnson who will also be responsible for the operational elements of the Melbourne Broadcast Centre. All the station General Managers will report to Ian, as well as Andrew Anderson.”

Anderson gains power in Sydney and Melbourne where the operational functions will be grouped under his control and the technical side under Trevor Bird.

As both Sydney and Melbourne are the key stations in the network, this affectively means Leckie, along with Johnson and Anderson and to a lesser extent Trevor Bird, will control the day to day business of Seven. Sales boss, James Warburton is based in Sydney, as is News and Current Affairs head, Peter Meakin.

Leckie said Trevor Bird will report to him and not only oversee the converged group of Engineering and Technical Operations, but also IT, communications and broadcast infrastructure and equipment.

And Tim McDonald is taking on a new role of General Manager program Operations, managing the Sydney operations at Epping and St Leonards, but also all program operations across the Network, including local ‘windows’, network productions and sport. That makes him as powerful as Ian Johnson.

Marketing, cross platform businesses are to be moved to the Sales area and Human Resources is given to Finance.

Leckie concluded “I now want to develop the agility of this Network. We will get a lot more efficient-plus it will be a lot more fun”.

Also sounds like if and when Dave Aspinall gets better and returns, there may not be much of a job waiting for him. This is a real re-making of the Seven Network’s structure in Leckie’s own right (with approval of course from the Executive chairman, Kerry Stokes).

Peter Fray

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