The day Seven's CEO fell off the stage

By Stephen Mayne
January 7, 2008

The following story was published in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, October 24, 1998.

It was meant to be a triumphal entrance for the man picked to resurrect the fortunes of Channel Seven. Instead Englishman Julian Mounter found himself sprawling on the floor beside the stage of Seven's main Melbourne studio in his first formal appearance as successor to Gary Rice.

The new chief executive fell off the stage at the end of the company's annual meeting, landing heavily on his hip, and appeared stunned for several minutes.

Chairman Kerry Stokes helped him to his feet and an ambulance was immediately called to the back of Studio Seven, which has produced shows such as Tonight Live, Man `O' Man and Something Stupid, over the years.

Two other Seven directors, Dulcie Boling and Alan Jackson, also slipped and almost fell negotiating the 1m black on black drop from the raised stage in the dim studio lights.

Seven immediately went into damage control, suggesting if the pictures of their sprawled new boss were published, photographers may not be permitted into future annual meetings. And who do you blame in a situation like this? The media, of course.

"There were too many people on the podium with journalists jostling with photographers trying to get a picture of Julian and the chairman (Kerry Stokes) in front of the Seven logo," spokesman Simon Francis said.

"Julian put his foot over the edge and lost his balance."

But the official damage is not too bad.

"He's taken a couple of Panadol and he's got a couple of bruises," Mr Francis said. "But he's a television executive and he'll bounce back."

Mr Mounter has a series of more difficult challenges to face over the next three years than negotiating his way through Seven's Melbourne studios. The network has lost ground to rivals Nine and Ten in the key 25-39 age bracket and last year reported a 77 per cent slump in annual profit to just $20.35 million.

However, Mr Stokes was confident the Englishman was the right man to deliver the recovery and obviously relieved his new chief survived yesterday's inglorious fall in full view of the assembled media throng.

Mounter, a former journalist and war reporter, gamely answered journalists' questions after he climbed back to his feet. Ironically, he was asked about Seven's reaction to new evidence about the deaths of a Seven television crew in the invasion of East Timor in 1975.

"I'm very aware of the tragedy, as a journalist who used to cover war zones" said Mounter, putting on a brave face.

"I know of the enormous risks and the courage that people show in those circumstances but I know nothing of the case going on at the moment."
It wasn't all bad news for Mounter, who officially starts on January 1. Shareholders approved the issue of three million share options, although the purchase price of the first million is $5.29 and Seven shares closed at just $4.55 yesterday.