The Big Hire: Liz Warner of Comic Relief

The new chief executive takes over at a time of change for the charity as it explores how digital content and new technology could help to raise and distribute money

Liz Warner
Liz Warner

It came as little surprise that Comic Relief recruited its new chief executive, Liz Warner, from the world of TV and entertainment, rather than the charity sector. The grant-giver raises most of its income from two biennial television events - Red Nose Day and Sport Relief - both of which rely heavily on attracting celebrities to take part in fundraising activities.

Warner joins after 16 months working on digital projects and mentoring a small digital company and two independent production companies. Before that, she was chief executive of betty, a production company she founded in 2001, which has produced a number of acclaimed programmes, including the Emmy-winning Forgiven, a drama about child abuse, and the Channel 4 series The Undateables, which finds dates for people with challenging conditions.

Warner sold betty to Discovery Networks International in 2011, but remained as chief executive of the company until April 2015.

She has also worked at the BBC as deputy head of youth and entertainment features and at Channel 4 as a commissioning editor. Before that she worked for Ginger Productions, set up by the television presenter Chris Evans. At Channel 4, Warner was involved with the development of programmes that became household names, including the first series of Grand Designs, River Cottage, Big Brother and Location, Location, Location. A number of the programmes she commissioned gave TV debuts to personalities who have since become well known, including Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater, Kirstie Allsopp and Gordon Ramsay. She also led campaigns on literacy, women's health and sexual health.

Warner was unavailable for comment, but said in a statement: "I have always been motivated by social issues. I enjoy leading creative teams and working with top talent on ground-breaking work. I am very interested in brands, business and their evolution, and this unique role at Comic Relief brings all these together."

Warner takes over during a time of change for the charity. Last year it held its first Red Nose Day in the US, which raised $23.9m (£18.4m). The charity is also exploring how digital content and new technology could help to raise and distribute money.

In a statement announcing Warner's appointment, Tim Davie, the chair of Comic Relief, said her track record as an innovator working in youth, diversity and digital made her a great candidate to lead the charity's expansion. He said: "She brings energy, enthusiasm and creative vision to take Comic Relief to the next stage."

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