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Seven bosses profit from success

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Seven bosses profit from success

Clive Mathieson and Sally Jackson

April 26, 2005

SEVEN Network chief David Leckie and commercial director Bruce McWilliam have taken advantage of the group's soaring share price to notch up paper profits of almost $6million by exercising options.

On Friday, Mr Leckie exercised 1.5 million options that allowed him to buy shares in the network at $5 each, compared with the last trading price of $7.30.

Mr McWilliam converted 1million options into Seven shares at the same price.

The transactions mean Mr Leckie, who paid $7.5million for the stock, is sitting on an instant paper profit of $3.45million and Mr McWilliam of $2.3million.

Seven's ratings success this year from programs such as Dancing With the Stars, Desperate Housewives and Lost saw its share price soar to a record high of $8.05 earlier this month.

Since then the stock has fallen back in line with the wider market to close on Friday at $7.30. However, it is still up 12 per cent for the year - and is more than double the six-year low of $3.55 struck the month before Mr Leckie joined the then-ailing network from arch-rival Nine in April 2003.

Mr Leckie and Mr McWilliam, who joined Seven in September 2003, were issued 5million options in late 2003. Mr Leckie still has 1million options that can be exercised at $6 a share and another 500,000 at $7 a share.

This month, however, Seven's six-week streak as the nation's No1 network has ended, with the network suffering the indignity of being sent to the ratings naughty corner by Nine's Super Nanny for the past two weeks.

Thanks in part to the unexpected popularity of the series, which demonstrates how to deal with troublesome children, Nine last week claimed an average national audience share during prime-time (6pm-midnight) of 30 per cent - pipping Seven on 29 per cent.

Seven still boasted the three most-watched programs of the week: the Dancing With the Stars final (with an average national audience of 2.3million viewers), Desperate Housewives (2.1 million) and Lost (1.9 million).

But Nine had the next six most popular: National Nine News on Sunday (1.83 million), Super Nanny USA (1.82 million), Backyard Blitz (1.76 million), 60 Minutes (1.74 million), Friday Night Football (1.67million) and the Sunday night episode of CSI (1.64 million).

Rounding out the top 10 was Ten's Jamie's School Dinners (1.5 million).

Ten captured a 20 per cent share of last week's prime-time audience - its worst result of the year so far - followed by the ABC with 15.9 per cent and SBS with 5.1 per cent.

Seven retains its overall lead for the ratings year to date, but only by the thinnest of margins, with a 29 per cent average share to Nine's 28.8per cent.

? The Australian

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