Billionaire Gina Rinehart has quit the board of the Ten Network to focus on the construction of her giant iron ore project.
Also one of Ten’s major shareholders, Mrs Rinehart failed to attend any of the broadcaster’s board meetings in the 2013/14 financial year due to her commitments as chairman of Hancock Prospecting.
Construction of that company’s $US10 billion Roy Hill project in Western Australia recently passed the halfway mark, with the first shipment of iron ore scheduled for September 2015.
In the past 12 months Mrs Rinehart has secured crucial funding for the project, despite falling prices for iron ore amid rising supply.
John Klepec, the chief development officer at Hancock Prospecting, has attended Ten’s board meetings on Mrs Rinehart’s behalf since October 2013, and will permanently now replace her as a director.
His appointment comes at an important time for the struggling media company, which has recently been the subject of speculation about a merger with Fairfax Media – in which Mrs Rinehart holds a 15 per cent stake.
But analysts still believe a merger has major hurdles to clear – including asset sales to meet media ownership laws.
Ten’s managing director Hamish McLennan thanked Mrs Rinehart for her contributions to the company in her three years on the board.
“It has been a very great pleasure working with Mrs Rinehart and I have appreciated her commitment and our discussions,” he said in a statement on Monday.
Mrs Rinehart, Australia’s richest person, is expected to hold on to her 9.7 per cent stake in Ten.
“I look forward to her ongoing involvement,” Mr McLennan said.
He also welcomed Mr Klepec to the board, highlighting his experience in business development at Hancock and other companies, including BHP Billiton.
“We welcome John to the board and see his appointment as a director of the board of Ten as providing continuity following his role as an alternate director for Mrs Rinehart at Ten,” Mr McLennan said.
Shares in Ten were higher in morning trade, but finished Monday steady at 22 cents.