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Seven director’s resignation just before CEO’s exoneration raises questions

The morning after Sheila McGregor resigned from the board, Seven cleared its CEO Tim Worner of allegations raised by former staffer Amber Harrison, with whom he had an affair. Sheila McGregor’s departure may have been executed quietly, but it sent a very loud message.
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On the glorious US ski slopes of Vail where the rich and famous carve their way through white powder by day and socialise by night, it’s often hard to avoid running into others. Two ns in the news this week – media mogul Kerry Stokes and Sheila McGregor, the woman who resigned from the board of his Seven West Media on Thursday – would almost certainly have crossed paths.

Stokes, who often uses his palatial Colorado ski lodge to host business contacts, could well have entertained McGregor as a guest as they are believed to have been old friends.

Her decision to quit was announced hours before Seven West’s board exonerated its chief executive, Tim Worner, from a series of accusations against him including misuse of his company credit card and use of cocaine during work time, raised after an affair with an office staffer, Amber Harrison.

Mr Worner had apologised to Seven’s staff for the affair in late December, saying that “a lot of the allegations are factually incorrect”.

McGregor’s move demonstrates her independence and social conscience. Her departure may have been executed quietly, but sent a very loud message.

And what about the timing. The company issued a four-line statement on late Thursday to the n Securities Exchange about McGregor’s departure and on Friday morning announced the board had completed its review of the allegations and cleared its chief executive.

Seven has not publicly provided the report it received from investigations firm Allens Linklaters, and has not stated that the report has cleared Worner of the accusations made against him. Rather it says “the board has concluded that the allegations of misconduct by Mr Worner have not been substantiated”.

And when Seven refers to “the board” in this instance, it appears that it had not decided on its final handling of the report until after McGregor had resigned.

The message that Seven was putting out on Friday is that McGregor was not disputing the contents of the report, but that she was unhappy with the fact that Worner had engaged in with an affair with a junior member of staff.

Maybe. But McGregor has gone to ground and therefore won’t confirm that. And the timing of her departure could possibly suggest that she was not happy to sign off on the board’s decision on Worner.

It is also strange that McGregor chose Thursday night to resign when the board had known about Worner’s affair with Harrison since 2014. (It is possible McGregor wasn’t aware of it until a few months ago when it became public. She joined the board in 2015.)

Insiders say McGregor, a lawyer, had been instrumental in setting up the inquiry and its scope.

Indeed the scope of the investigation appears narrow. It concluded that Worner had not taken part in a decision to award Harrison a bonus (at the time the two were having an affair), nor did he instigate an investigation into her misuse of credit cards. Other members of Seven’s executive team did that.

The claims that Worner had been having sexual relationships with other staff members have been denied by him and the alleged partners.

The board is happy enough that there is no proof that Worner took drugs or misused his credit card.

This is despite the fact that Harrison’s statement to the inquiry conducted by Allens said the following: “I confirm that, during the interview, I provided copies of two taxi receipts which confirm that Tim Worner used his corporate credit card to come to my house on 6 June 2014. Text messages from that day will confirm the timeline of his arrival and departure. I have also supplied other dates on which I am aware he used his corporate credit card to travel to my house in Balmain for sex.”

Even if the only misconduct that can be levelled at Tim Worner is that he had an affair with Harrison, that itself should be a sackable offence.

And the behaviour of the Seven board and management, once they learned Harrison had misused credit cards and engaged in a relationship, alone is a staggering coverup.

She was contracted to receive initially $100,000 and later $350,000 with the condition she keep silent about the affair and destroy text message evidence.

Worner was rapped across the knuckles.

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