EXCLUSIVE: After two and a half-years out of the Hollywood spotlight, former ABC president Stephen McPherson is eying a return as a producer with a deal at Fox Broadcasting Co. I hear the pact, which includes a production commitment, was orchestrated by Fox chairman Kevin Reilly, a longtime friend (and Cornell Phi Delta Theta fraternity brother) of McPherson, who stepped in to support McPherson in his return to TV. The two started their TV careers together, working as young executives at NBC under Warren Littlefield, and McPherson famously spoke out in Reilly’s defense when he was ousted by NBC in 2007, publicly blasting Reilly’s successor Ben Silverman, challenging him to “Be a man!”

McPherson has been focused on his wine business since his abrupt exit from ABC in the summer of 2010. McPherson’s tenure at ABC was marked with some successes — he launched comedy megahit Modern Family. But he also has been a polarizing figure, raising questions whether he would return to the television business, which is built on relationships. In the end one of those relationships, that with Reilly, brought him back. McPherson’s name first surfaced in 2011 as a candidate to head the relaunched Regency Television. He met with several TV studios for a pod deal last fall and entered negotiations with Fox sibling 20th Century Fox TV but that deal, which was to be in conjunction with the network, ultimately didn’t pan out. In a rare public appearance since his ouster from ABC, McPherson last summer testified in Nicollette Sheridan’s Desperate Housewives wrongful dismissal case.