Following news this weekend that the Tim Worner sex scandal debacle has ended, AdNews casts an eye over the timeline of what happened and how the CEO of the most watched TV network in the country ended up making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
It was mid-December last year when Worner apologised for an inappropriate relationship he had with former Seven West Media executive assistant Amber Harrison prior to becoming CEO, after details were leaked to the press on Sunday.
Harrison claimed the affair began in 2012 and lasted two years before she became despondent and depressed over the way she was being treated by Worner and the network.
“The affair began the month after the board meeting at Pacific Magazines. We started flirting and soon after Tim began texting and emailing me for sex,” Harrison claimed. “I knew he was married. It was never about love. It was about sex and power," she said at the time.
Harrison claimed her affair with Worner may have also brought about the end of Chan’s career at Seven West Media, as he became “collateral damage” after the affair was exposed internally. However, a Seven source told AdNews these allegations were unfounded and that Chan had left a while after she was sacked.
Harrison claimed she was pushed out of Seven West Media after complaining about Worner, which led to an investigation that saw the EA accused of $276,000 in corporate fraud. She admitted to repaying $14,000 in personal expenses, but that most of the money she was accused of misappropriating was either proved legitimate ($130,000) or struck off as expenses against her boss ($71,000).
"The entire process was a witchhunt, Seven did not investigate in any depth as they just thought they'd throw this enormous figure at me and bury me with it,” she said in a statement circulated to the press. “No employee should have to run their own investigation. And no other employee, out of 10,000, was subjected to the scrutiny that I was.”
A Seven source told AdNews her version of events were incorrect and the fraud was discovered after random checks triggered an automatic review under Seven's audit policy, and an independent report carried out by auditors found substantial misappropriation of funds.
In that lengthy statement, Harrison made several sordid allegations about the affair that this publication decided not publish out of respect for privacy, but also said she “never felt this was a sexual harassment case”.
“It was about abuse of power and also workplace safety,” she said at the time.
Harrison said she decided to make the affair public because she became frustrated by the protracted legal process and mounting legal costs.
“How does one individual fight this massive company with unlimited resources? There is little recourse available to individuals in our court system, particularly against Seven who live to frustrate and litigate,” she claimed.
“They have continued to apply unreasonable, wide reaching and every changing demands to the very end and I have nothing left to fight them with now, except the truth.’’
Harrison’s allegations were challenged further by Seven West Media, Worner and its legal team as further details came to light.
Worner, who leads the most watched TV network in the country, is highly regarded as one of the more impressive and outspoken media executives in Australia. He was also ranked among the top 10 most powerful media executives by AdNews in our 2016 Power List. Keep ane eye out as our 2017 Power List is out this September.
Late December Seven called inquiry into Worner sex scandal and said and said the board would continue to support the CEO. Its share price was impacted by the scandal, dropping by 8% to 75c at the time.
In February this year an independent probe cleared Seven CEO Worner of 'misconduct'. The findings of the review were regarded as pivotal to Worner keeping his job.
It was led by Richard Harris, a litigation and investigations partner at law firm Allens Linklaters. The findings cleared Worner of any involvement in the way the company treated Harrison, the awarding of a bonus to Harrison and claims he influenced her to "misuse a company credit card".
It also cast doubt over allegations Worner had inappropriate relationships with four other employees that the investigation found were "falsely accused" and "vehemently denied". Harrison's allegations Worner took illicit drugs during their affair could "not be substantiated", the probe found.
After receiving the report, Seven West Media's board concluded Harrison's allegations of misconduct were not substantiated and it is satisfied that:
- the company's identification of significant credit card misuse by Harrison was not instigated by, or on behalf of, Worner or his office and they had no involvement in the investigation.
- Worner did not influence, nor play any role, in the awarding of the bonus to Ms Harrison other than signing the letters which informed her, and other Executive Assistants, of their bonus.
- company funds were not deployed in furthering the relationship by Mr Worner or with his approval. There were no irregularities in Worner’s corporate credit card use.
- the strong and vehement denials by the four employees falsely accused of having an inappropriate relationship with Mr Worner are accepted without reservation and cast doubt on the veracity of other accusations.
- the allegations of illicit drug use by Mr Worner could not be substantiated.
- Worner did not have any involvement in the way the company.
Seven's board found no grounds to take any further disciplinary action against Worner beyond the action that was taken when the affair first came to light in 2014.
It said that it found some of communications between Harrison and Worner as "highly personal nature that used language and expressed concepts that the board finds totally objectionable". However, the communications were private and "only disclosed as a result of a breach of express confidentiality obligations".
While accepting the findings of the probe, the board did offer this stark warning in a statement:
"The board has at all times made clear to Mr Worner that while the relationship, which concluded in July 2014, was personal and consensual, it was inappropriate given his senior position in the company and not behaviour condoned by the company.
"Mr Worner has been disciplined by the chairman and the board and provided an undertaking this behaviour will not be repeated, as well as an apology."
Worner resigns from Sydney Swans board
In April this year Worner resigned from the board of AFL team the Sydney Swans amid mounting pressure over the court battle with Harrison.
Media reports suggested Worner's position on the Swans board had been questioned by powerful women at the club, including new board member Sam Mostyn. Worner joined the board in February 2016.
“My hope is that by standing down, I can relieve pressure on the board and the club and let them concentrate on the business of football, and a successful home and away season in 2017,” Worner said in a statement.
Worner didn't attend the first Swans home match of the season and questions were raised about whether he would be able to attend public functions while the dispute continued to generate negative publicity in the press.
Worner the butt of TV awards joke
At this year's Logies in April, host Dave Hughes made waves at the TV awards extravaganza with a few jokes that to some, were deemed below par. The comedian and radio host seemed to 'mistakenly attribute The Wrong Girl to Channel Seven, instead of Channel 10, but it soon became clear that the misstep was intentional.
“Sorry, Channel Seven were working on a pilot for The Wrong Girl with their CEO Tim Worner… that was more of a reality show and he picked the wrong girl,” he said.
"It was going really well but they thought it was too expensive so they tried to cancel it," he continued. "I've never worked on Channel Seven and I probably never will!"
The joke was in reference to the recent saga Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner became embroiled in late last year following an affair Seven West Media executive assistant Amber Harrison, who was the EA to then Pacific Magazines CEO Nick Chan. She went public with details of the affair after legal negotiations for a settlement with Seven West Media broke down.
According to Mamamia some in the audience made it clear they were not amused.
Harrison was also quick to take to Twitter to support Hughes remarks.https://twitter.com/_Amber_Harrison/status/855936967476891648 https://twitter.com/_Amber_Harrison/status/855936967476891648
Harrison walks away from Seven West Media legal stoush
Late on Friday 7 July Harrison walked away from her legal battle with Seven West Media. The parties were due to battle it out at a three-day hearing in the Supreme Court from Monday (10 July).
Harrison told Fairfax Media she would consent to the orders and would not appear in court after she took to Twitter to admit defeat.
She said: "I have made a realistic assessment of the court case and am choosing not to run it on Monday. I've asked my legal team not to represent me."
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