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ProSiebenSat.1 selects CEO

Ebeling joins from Novartis

Pan-European broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1 has finally found a new CEO after a months-long search that for a time appeared to threaten the future of the company.

Thomas Ebeling, former CEO of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis’ consumer health division, will take the helm at the Munich-based broadcaster in March.

ProSiebenSat.1’s current topper, Guillaume de Posch, is stepping down at the end of the year. Finance chief Axel Salzmann will serve as interim CEO.

Ebeling’s appointment follows months of turmoil at the group, which has reportedly had a difficult time finding an exec ready to take on the dire challenges facing one of Europe’s biggest TV congloms.

A slew of possible candidates, including former Bertelsmann topper Thomas Middelhoff, RTL topper Gerhard Zeiler, outgoing Constantin chief Fred Kogel and former Premiere honcho Georg Kofler, are all said to have passed on the job.

ProSiebenSat.1 has been saddled with billions in debt due to its takeover of pan-European broadcasting group SBS last year, and it was hit hard by sinking ad revenues. Desperate to lower costs, the group last month announced layoffs of 225 employees across all divisions, about 7% of its 3,000 German staffers, as it continues to integrate the two companies.

ProSiebenSat.1, which controls 26 free TV and 24 pay TV channels in Europe, suffered a $13.7 million loss in the third quarter as revenue dropped 3.3% to $833 million, due mainly to the poor performance of its German free TV channels.

Although new to the TV industry, Ebeling claims to have plenty of experience with the media.

“For the past 20 years, dealing with the media has been part of my day-to-day activities, as a marketing director, managing director and most recently as CEO in companies that are among the world’s biggest advertisers,” he said in a statement.

Before heading Novartis Consumer Health, he was general manager of Novartis Nutrition for Germany and Austria and general manager of Pepsi-Cola Germany.

ProSiebenSat.1’s stock price has plunged 93% since the beginning of the year. Shares jumped more than 10% on Tuesday following news of Ebeling’s appointment before settling at $1.78.

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