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Mounter dismounts Star TV

Julian Mounter, chief executive of satcaster Star TV for barely six months, is set to be replaced in the wake of the News Corp. takeover.

An insider claims that Mounter’s departure from the top post and appointment as a consultant until the end of the year will be announced officially this week.

“All the company’s senior staff know already, but they’re under threat of being sacked if they talk to the press,” the insider said.

No successor is apparent, although it is expected that Star’s new chief will be sanctioned by SamChisholm, head of News Corp.’s British sat TV operation BSkyB.

Chisholm has been closely involved in the takeover machinations on News Corp.’s behalf and had a strong presence at high-level meetings held at Star last week.

Talk of dissonance

Rumors have been rife that Mounter, the former head of Television New Zealand (TVNZ), and News Corp. chief exec Rupert Murdoch don’t see eye to eye. However, neither Star nor News Corp. would comment publicly.

Just over a week ago, Mounter addressed worried staff members — many of whom had traveled halfway around the world to join Star after becoming casualties of News Corp.’s Sky TV takeover of British Satellite Broadcasting in 1990. He reassured them, insisting few changes would occur and that he would “definitely” be carrying on as the company’s leader.

Asked this week about his plans, Mounter said, “We are not in the habit of responding to rumors, but as reported on the weekend, I have been asked to stay on as chief executive.”

Mounter replaced Li

Mounter joined the Hong Kong-based satellite TV broadcaster in February, taking over the top job from Richard Li, who was said to be required to spend more time with parent company Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.

Having guided the company through its successful entrepreneurial stage, Li said he was stepping aside to allow Mounter to manage the company for its consolidation period.

Mounter’s main management credentials related to a four-year stint as head of TVNZ, during which he cut the staff by half and radically pruned the company’s in-house production, relying instead on outside supply of programming.

He is said to have led TVNZ’s expansion into telecommunications, pay TV and satcasting.

During his short tenure at Star, Mounter has managed to shift out most of Richard Li’s entrepreneurial team to make way for his own hand-picked set of senior executives, including former TVNZ staffers Michael Dunlop (heading the free-to-air service); Maurice Smyth (international affairs); and Paul Edwards from South African cable TV group Emnet (Star’s pay-TV project).

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