As a former publicist, Joe Earley was very proud that the announcement of him leaving his post as Fox TV Group COO had remained quiet until its surprising unveiling today because one of a publicist’s main duties is to prevent leaks. Earley’s exit had been in the works for months — he and Fox TV Group chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman first began discussing the issue at the beginning of the year.

Sources said Earley, a 21-year Fox veteran, signed a new contract when he received the promotion to Fox TV Group COO last summer, adding duties at 20th Century Fox TV to his responsibilities at the Fox network. Why did he decide to leave the new job six months into it with so much time left on his contract?

Premiere Of Fox's "Empire" - Red Carpet“I was honored to be able to learn the studio side, which I learned as quickly as I could while still overseeing things at the network,” Earley said. “But as I was more and more successful in the role, I realized that it was truly an operational role, not creative. I started in the business with the goal of being a producer (Earley’s first job was working for producer Gale Anne Hurd.) Trough those great opportunities over the years, I’ve let myself further and further form that goal, so I wanted to go back and have experience on the creative side.”

He shared his thoughts with Walden and Newman, who Earley said were “understanding and supportive,” and the three set a timeline for his exit, with an announcement after the fall network launch when all pieces needed for a transition had been put into place.

Earley got a taste of being involved in the creative process last year when he spent six months as head of Fox’s development and programming just before and after the exit of Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly. He was succeeded in the role by David Madden, who was named entertainment president by Walden and Newman, a decision Earley said he fully supported.

“It was a great time as I had had every piece of the puzzle but that one and got the opportunity to fortify relationships with the agency community and to dig in from the shows’ inception,” Earley said about his stint. “That said, I one hundred percent understand why, when Dana and Gary came in, they felt that that would not be an appropriate role (for me) and I supported and applauded the choice of David Madden. When you have a network in need of a turnaround, you have to have somebody who had that breath of experience.”

Backstage - 26th Annual GLAAD Media AwardsFor now, Earley and Fox are taking a clean break, with no arrangements in place for Earley to stay in the company fold as a producer or in other creative capacity. “We didn’t discuss that,” Earley said, who plans to explore whatever opportunities are out there. He is focusing on roles as a producer or development executive. “As long as there is creative involvement, that’s what I want,” Earley said. He had not put himself out there until today but said there already have been a slew of incoming emails and texts.

Before he jumps back, Earley, who will leave Fox at the end of December, plans to take a little time off. What is on his to-do list? “From filing in my home office to trying pilates,” he said. But he also plans to start talks with potential new employers or partners today. “While I will spend time with the family, definitely I’m a worker, so I’m sure I will be ready to go back to work before my family wants me gone.”

Earley comes from publicity and marketing background, though that chapter in his career is now closed (but not forgotten). “Marketing I believe, and publicity, is hardwired into my brain, so I will take it with me wherever I go,” he said.

Among his accomplishments at Fox, Earley lists getting The Simpsons a star on the Walk of Fame and shepherding the launch campaigns for such shows as Glee, Fringe, New Girl, Sleepy Hollow, Scream Queens and Empire. “It’s been a fantastic ride,” he said.