Stokes scion's plum role at Seven

THE elevation of Ryan Stokes to what is understood to be his first operational role signals the rise of the heir apparent and the injection of new blood into father Kerry Stokes' media and earthmoving interests.

Last week Mr Stokes, 36, moved onto the board of Seven West Media. Yesterday he was appointed as chief operating officer at Seven Group Holdings, the conglomerate that owns a third of the media group as well as the earthmoving equipment company WesTrac.

The urbane, younger Mr Stokes is likely to find his business record come under increasing scrutiny. Seven's media minders have kept Mr Stokes on a tight leash but were unable to prevent him from landing in the tabloid headlines three years ago when he split from his girlfriend, Home & Away star Jodi Gordon.

Mr Stokes' experience has been confined largely to the technology side of Seven's businesses. He was part of the team that took on and expanded the wireless broadband network Unwired, which Seven bought for $127 million in 2007 and which later became Vividwireless, and subsequently sold to Optus in June for $230 million.

One analyst who has met him said: ''He's bright, intelligent but I don't know how much operational experience he has beyond telecommunications and media.''

He has been chairman of Seven's Pacific Magazines, sits on the board of Yahoo7! - the internet division half-owned by Seven and Yahoo! - and is one of Seven's two representatives on the board of James Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings, which has a quarter share in Foxtel. Seven has yet to decide if it will sell its stake to News as part of the latter's takeover of Consolidated.

Another analyst made the point that the buck had never stopped with him - each of those businesses had a director in charge - and questioned whether Mr Stokes would be in those positions had his father not been Seven's largest shareholder.

His appointment coincides with that of Yahoo!7 chief Rohan Lund's to the position of Seven West Media's chief operating officer with a brief to ensure the company's TV, magazines, newspapers and internet interests take advantage of the digital revolution.

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