TVN reshuffle brings in Tellenbach

Media group makes major management changes

WARSAW — TVN, Poland’s largest media group, has announced major management changes as it wrestles with repayments on a e320 million ($450 million) loan.

On Sept. 1 TVN CEO Piotr Walter is segueing to the new group management board as VP. He will be replaced as CEO by media vet Markus Tellenbach, who will also sit on the board. VP for TV programming Edward Miszczak and chief financial officer Karen Burgess have stepped down.

Walter and Tellenbach will be joined on the board by Lukasz Wejchert, head of online operations, and interim CFO Rafal Wyszomierski.

Tellenbach is a long-time Euro TV professional, having held various positions in companies owned by Bertelsmann, Rupert Murdoch and Leo Kirch. He is the chairman of the supervisory board at News Corp. satcaster Sky Deutschland, Germany’s leading pay TV platform (formerly Premiere) and a member of TVN’s supervisory board. He plans to step down from Sky by the end of the year.

Walter has run TVN since 2001. During his tenure the third-rated web became one of the largest publicly listed integrated media groups in Central Europe, boasting the most watched Polish commercial TV station, TVN, Internet portal onet.pl and a fast-growing satellite TV platform, N, which bowed at the end of 2006.

Analysts suggest the change in the management structure might have resulted from TVN’s falling ratings as well as uncertainty over its liabilities. TVN raised the $450 million loan in 2007 and it’s due in 2013. The company has recently been renegotiating the loan’s terms, which suggested potential repayment problems or house-cleaning before a sale.

Wojciech Kostrzewa, head of TVN’s supervisory board and prexy of ITI, the group’s largest shareholder, said, “The sale suggestions are simply fiction. We are doing away with a management structure dominated by one type of operations, television. Today TVN has three business pillars: free broadcast TV, satellite pay TV and online. Each requires a lot of attention.”

Tellenbach will focus on “n.” With 520,000 subscribers, “n” is far behind Cyfrowy Polsat with almost 3 million subscribers, and Vivendi’s Cyfra Plus with almost 1.5 million.