Financially stressed broadcaster MediaWorks will gain high-profile telecommunications entrepreneur Jack Matthews as its chairman from the end of next month.

New Zealand-resident Matthews will replace the current Australia-based chairman, Rod McGeoch, who has led the MediaWorks board since 2013.

Matthews is well-known in New Zealand as the founder of one of the country's first cable television services, then known as Saturn, on the Kapiti Coast, which has morphed over the years through ownership for a time by Australian telco Telstra to become part of Vodafone's New Zealand asset base.

"I'm very pleased to accept this position and look forward to working with a strong board, management team and, most importantly, a committed and passionate staff who are all focused on maintaining MediaWorks as a successful and important part of New Zealanders' daily lives," Matthews said.


McGeoch said he had led MediaWorks "out of receivership and into a place where MediaWorks Radio is No 1 and TV3 is gaining share".

"In these times of huge industry change and disruption, it is right to hand over to a chairman who resides in New Zealand and who brings extensive media expertise."

Matthews has held executive roles including chief executive of Fairfax Metro Media (Australia), CEO at Showtime (Australia) and CEO at TelstraSaturn (NZ). He currently sits on four boards in New Zealand and Australia: Crown Fibre Holdings, Network For Learning, Trilogy International and APN Outdoor, as well as chairing Rewardle Holdings, a digital start-up business based in Melbourne.

MediaWorks is owned by US hudge fund Oaktree Capital, which is known to be seeking to exit its New Zealand broadcasting investment, having gained full control of MediaWorks last year.

The Los Angeles-based firm became a MediaWorks debt-holder in 2012, buying $125 million of the group's outstanding loans at a reported 50 per cent discount, later converted to equity when the media company's lenders seized control and pushed out former owner Ironbridge Capital in 2013.

MediaWorks was then restructured through a receivership, allowing MediaWorks to break its commitments to buy programmes from international networks and shed liabilities relating to a $22 million transtasman tax dispute.

Oaktree went on to buy out fellow shareholders Rabobank, Westpac New Zealand and Royal Bank of Scotland.

Oaktree specialises in buying distressed debt to pursue "unusual opportunities for bargain purchases".