* Move follows profit warning earlier this month
* Conrad Albert appointed deputy-CEO (Adds background)
FRANKFURT, Nov 19 (Reuters) - ProSiebenSat.1 Chief Executive Thomas Ebeling will leave the German broadcaster next February, the group said on Sunday days after a profit warning and after Ebeling apologised for disparaging comments about the network’s viewers.
Ebeling will leave the company after its annual news conference on Feb. 22, 2018, the group said in a statement that gave no reason for the decision.
The move, mutually agreed by Ebeling and ProSiebenSat.1’s supervisory board, comes 10 days after the group cut its outlook for sales and profit for the year, sending its shares down 11 percent to a 4-1/2-year low.
Ebeling apologised last week for calling the network’s core audience “obese” and “slightly poor” during a conference call with financial analysts - remarks that caused a storm on Twitter.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Nov. 9 that the company’s supervisory board had begun looking for a successor for Ebeling, CEO of ProSiebenSat.1 since 2009, to turn the German broadcaster around.
Broadcasters are battling changing viewing habits and cuts in marketing outlays by major consumer brands - trends that are expected to drag overall growth in TV advertising spending in Europe’s largest economy to its slowest since 2011.
Ebeling had a contract that ran until mid-2019.
“However, already in connection with the latest renewal of his contract of employment, he informed the company that he would not be available for a further subsequent renewal,” ProSiebenSat.1 said in a statement.
“Against this background, the Supervisory Board initiated the search for a successor some time ago and will appoint a successor in due course.”
Conrad Albert, board member responsible for external affairs and industry relations and general counsel, has been appointed as deputy chairman of the executive board with immediate effect, the group said.
“The purpose of this appointment is to ensure continuity in the company and to guarantee the further implementation of the strategy if the successor should not be able to take up his office promptly after the annual press conference,” it added. (Reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Adrian Croft)