Liz Warner to step down as chief executive of Comic Relief

The former television executive is to leave the charity towards the end of the year

Liz Warner
Liz Warner

Liz Warner, chief executive of Comic Relief, has announced that she will step down at the end of the year.

A statement from the grant-maker today said Warner, who has been in post since October 2016, would be leaving to start a new social enterprise and take on new board positions.

Warner is yet to decide what the new social enterprise will do, it is understood.

The charity said in a statement that Warner would remain in post until late 2019 so she could solidify plans for next year’s Sport Relief, launch a new ethical sourcing and sustainability strategy and ensure a smooth transition for her successor.

The charity has faced some controversy during Warner’s time in charge, including the "white saviour" row about its use of white celebrities to front appeal films from Africa, which attracted considerable media attention because of comments from the Labour MP David Lammy shortly before this year’s Red Nose Day. 

On-the-night fundraising totals for this year’s Red Nose Day and last year’s Sport Relief were millions of pounds lower than the previous versions of each event, which take place on alternating years.

Comic Relief said in a statement that Warner’s achievements included introducing new revenue sources such as digital fundraising and live events, and bringing a greater focus to its work.  

"Liz has shifted the dial and started the change in approach Comic Relief takes to its appeal films," the charity said.

"She has also established a more diverse and inclusive board of trustees and an active internal diversity programme."

It is understood that Warner has not been pressured to leave and will not receive any pay-off when she departs at the end of the year.

Warner said the charity’s brand was "incredibly strong" and it was able to attract world-class talent.

"I am proud of the decision to fund locally led organisations and to focus our work on four of the biggest issues of our time.

"I have seen first-hand just how the money we raise has helped to change millions of lives in the UK and abroad.  It has been a privilege to see and meet those whose lives have been transformed as a result of the incredible range of projects that Comic Relief funds."

She said she had been recruited with a brief to modernise the charity and believed the foundations were now in place for it to "face the future with renewed vigour on all media platforms".

The charity’s most recent accounts showed the number of people who were paid more than £60,000 a year had fallen from 30 in the year to August 2017 to 12 a year later. Redundancy payments for the year were £1.3m.

Tim Davie, chairman of Comic Relief, said Warner had made the charity "leaner and more focused".

He said: "Liz has set the charity on course to be sector-leading in its safeguarding processes, increased its digital capability and attracted a new leadership team with a refreshed skill base, all of which means the charity is now well positioned to tackle the challenge of long-term sustainability."

Comic Relief said it would start the recruitment process for a new chief executive immediately.

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