Former Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross is returning to television, this time on the production side. Ross has been named CEO of Shine America, taking the reins of the U.S. outpost of Elisabeth Murdoch‘s Shine Group. He will start in January. Ross had a very successful run as President of Disney Channels Worldwide, overseeing global hits like Hannah Montana and High School Musical, before he moved to the feature side in 2009 for a rocky two-and-a-half-year term that ended in April.
At Shine America, Ross will replace current CEO Carl Fennessy. Fennessy, formerly co-CEO of Shine Australia, was brought to the U.S. in mid-2011 to succeed then-Shine Americas CEO Emiliano Calemzuk when he left in January 2012. After helping Ross with the transition, Fennessy will return to Australia where he will resume his duties as co-CEO of Shine Australia.
Ross and Shine Group chairman Murdoch have known each other for 20 years. “Rich is a world-class executive and the ideal leader to build on our extraordinary momentum at Shine America. We all welcome him warmly,” she said. “On behalf of everyone at Shine, I would like to thank Carl for his outstanding leadership over the last 18 months. He will be missed in America as much as he will be welcomed home in Australia.”
Shine America’s slate includes unscripted series MasterChef on Fox and The Biggest Loser on NBC, which will soon be joined by The Face on Oxygen. The company, whose scripted series originally consisted of Reveille’s The Office and The Tudors, has been ramping up scripted development and recently landed its first scripted pilot, The Bridge on FX, and first Spanish-language production, Minuto Para Ganar on MundoFOX. The company also recently launched New York-based format label Ardaban.
After 25 years in the industry and a 15-plus career at Disney working across film, TV, theater, adult and children’s programming, scripted, unscripted, domestic and international, Ross realized that “it all boiled down to content, there is nothing more important than that. And understanding the global scope of how content travels around the world, I was looking for an opportunity to create great content and do it with both domestic and global scope.” After considering a number of options for his next gig, “I realized Shine America was a custom fit for me.” He plans to continue the company’s expansion into scripted series, Spanish-language and digital programming.
Ross is the latest high-profile hire at Shine America, which has been staffing up. The company recently tapped former NBCU digital chief Vivi Zigler to lead its digital businesses under Ross.