21st Century Fox’s voluntary buyout program is moving to the next phase, with those tenured TV and film employees who had accepted the buyout offer by the February 29 deadline entering a 45-day window to mull over and agree to the terms in the separation agreement and sign it. No departures are final yet as staffers don’t have to commit to the buyout until mid-April and can still change their mind and decline the offer. Still, information has started to trickle out about long-time Fox executives who are taking the package.
I hear the buyout proposals, which went out on February 1, offering a month’s salary for each year worked, were sent to virtually all employees in Fox’s film and TV divisions who had been at the company for at least 15 years. They weren’t based on performance or any other factors besides length of tenure. As a result, I hear that there are some well liked seasoned executives departing who the company would’ve likely preferred to see stay.
Underscoring how dynamic development jobs are, with executives often switching companies and not staying in one place for long, I’ve heard of just two notable TV creative executives leaving as part of the buyouts, Fox SVP drama James Oh and Fox 21 SVP programming Nancy Cotton.
Meanwhile, there is a number of people in business affairs and production at the TV studio that were approached and have indicated that they are taking the offer. I hear the list includes 20th TV’s SVPs business affairs Neal Baseman and Pam Baron, VP business affairs Beth Hoffman, SVPs production Joel Hornstock and Bruce Margolis, and Fox 21’s SVP business affairs Martin Carlson, VP business affairs Vinette Bond, and SVP production Bob Lemchen.
High-level departures at the broadcast network are said to include EVP marketing Laurel Bernard, EVP talent relations Missy Halperin, EVP Broadcast Distribution Jon Hookstratten, and SVP Multi-Platform and Affiliate Marketing Michelle Garry.
This list is not comprehensive as it includes just a few but not all of the Fox and 20th TV executives taking the buyout. The full tally is rumored to be in the dozens.
Having been around for 21 years, FX does not have that many staffers who have been at the company for more than 15 years. I hear about a dozen or more qualified for the buyout and received the offer but only two are taking it. FX and its offshoots FXX and FXM have been run by a very tight-knit core executive team led by John Landgraf, who have been working together for a long time. There had been indications early in the buyout process that most long-term employees approached would opt to stay on.
After taking control of National Geographic last fall, Fox laid off dozens of employees. Because of the very recent head count reduction, I hear Nat Geo was not part of the voluntary buyout program. The buyouts at Fox Sports are said to include VP communications Dan Bell.
On the film side, the recently announced exit of Fox Searchlight President of Production Claudia Lewis is said to be tied to the buyouts, with talk about pending departures across the board in virtually all divisions, including business, legal, operations, home entertainment and distribution.
Given that the buyouts are not final, 21st Century Fox is not expected to unveil how many people have taken them until end of April. Also, some of the positions that are being vacated may be refilled.
The $250 million savings sought by 21st Century Fox will be achieved through personnel cuts as well as other avenues. It is unclear whether, in case the financial goal the company has set for the voluntary buyouts is not reached, they would be followed by layoffs.