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Star bang: Michelle Guthrie, STAR CEO resigns, Paul Aiello to take over; speculation high on Nair, Mukerjea quitting

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Star bang: Michelle Guthrie, STAR CEO resigns, Paul Aiello to take over; speculation high on Nair, Mukerjea quitting

Life couldn’t be more eventful for STAR, that too right at the beginning of the year. STAR CEO, Michelle Guthrie, has resigned. She will be succeeded by STAR Group’s President, Paul Aiello from March 1. In the next two months, Guthrie will work closely with Aiello to ensure smooth transition.

Meanwhile, reverberations are also being felt in India. It is learnt that STAR Group CEO, Peter Mukerjea, and STAR Entertainment CEO, Sameer Nair, have either put in their papers or are on the verge of doing so. A new name expected in India in March 2007 is that of UK-based Tata Tetley’s Vijay Singh. The Tata Group had roped in Vijay Singh in 2002 to head the Tetley operations in the emerging markets. Prior to this, he was CEO of Sony Music. It is unclear as to what would Singh’s role be in STAR.

It may be noted here that Mukerjea is contractually bound to STAR till August 2008, while Nair had signed a five-year contract with STAR in 2006. Both professionals are nonetheless attending office and no further details could be ascertained on these issues.

Considering the speculations, it would not be surprising to see other key players of STAR India in content and other departments quitting in case Nair indeed has decided to part ways with STAR. Among other related developments, a reported one is that of Sanjay Das from STAR Hong Kong moving to India in the finance department. STAR Entertainment’s Steve Askew is also moving on from the organisation.

The question is: with the top brass of Hong Kong moving out and with both Nair and Mukerjea gone (if that happens), what would be the impact on STAR’s Asia and, more importantly, India operations? Would STAR be content with new hands on the India affairs, when India contributes to over 80 per cent of STAR revenues?

Moving back to Guthrie, commenting on the announcement, Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive, News Corporation, said, “Michelle has overseen an important stage of growth at STAR, as it fortified its position as Asia's leading media company. STAR's distribution footprint as well as the depth of its content brands is unmatched among other major regional players in the industry. We thank Michelle for her contributions and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.”

“Paul has done an exceptional job at STAR since joining the company, leading its corporate team and overseeing its overall growth strategy. Paul's business acumen, strong leadership and financial skills as well as in-depth knowledge of the diverse and complex media and telecommunications industries in Asia make him the ideal candidate to steer the long-term growth and success of the company,” Murdoch continued.

In a letter addressed to STAR employees, Guthrie stated: “I’m sorry to let you know that I have decided to resign as Chief Executive Officer of STAR. Obviously, this is a very difficult decision for me as I’ve been with the company for almost seven years and have a great attachment to it and particularly to all of you. Nevertheless, I have decided it is time for me to take a break.”

It may be noted that reports in a section of the media on Friday had stated that Sameer Nair’s next stop was NDTV. However, NDTV stated that there was no truth that Nair was joining them.

Aiello joined STAR last year. Even before he joined, he had provided investment and strategic advice to the company for the last five years while working for Morgan Stanley. The mail from Guthrie states: “Since joining us, he has become heavily involved in all of STAR’s key operations, while also identifying core strategic initiatives that are and will continue to be critical to the company’s future growth. He has also been instrumental in installing structures that have streamlined our decision-making process and have helped us focus our priorities. I have every confidence that I leave the company in good hands under Paul’s leadership.”


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