Oz Newspaper Execs Fall Like Flies as Stokes Tightens Grip on WAN

04 December 2008

SYDNEY: Four board members of West Australian Newspapers on Wednesday reversed Groucho Marx's famed rejoinder ('I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member') and quit rather than share their boardroom with interloping media tycoon Kerry Stokes (pictured).

The quartet – chairman Peter Mansell, ceo Ken Steinke plus non-execs Jenny Seabrook and Mel Ward – have all moved to the departure lounge - excepting Steinke who will remain in situ until a replacement has been eased into the hotseat.

The walk-outs underscore the board's concern that Stokes – who chairs and controls the nation's Seven Network – intends to take over WAN, refering to him as "a dominating presence on any board, regardless of whether he has control of the company".

Some observers, however, venture the thought that the best way to prevent such a happening would have been for the foursome to roll-up their sleeves and remain.

Three months ago, the WAN board acceded to Seven's demands for board representation that reflected its 22.3% stake in the newspaper group.

In addition to Stokes, his lieutenant Peter Gammell also graces the WAN board.  

Meantime, a company spokesman declared that WAN's new chairman "will be decided by the board" after two new directors replacing Seabrook and Ward are appointed by the end of this month.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff