A+E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc is leaving the company effective April 16. She has been in talks with Vice for the CEO position currently held by co-founder Shane Smith, though it is unclear whether she would end up there. Former CEO of A+E Networks Abbe Raven, who retired from the company in 2015 after 33 years, will return as acting chair to oversee the transition until a replacement is named.
The Dubuc’s future had been a focus of speculation as her contract with A+E Networks parents Disney and Hearst is coming up. She was a finalist for the top Amazon Studios job before pulling herself out of consideration.
“In her roughly 20 years at A+E Networks, Nancy played a major role in building the success of A&E,, History and Lifetime, and we thank her for her leadership,” Steven R. Swartz, president and CEO of Hearst, and Ben Sherwood, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney|ABC Television, said in a joint statement. “We are also very grateful to Abbe, a former CEO of the company and one of A+E’s first employees, for agreeing to return on a temporary basis as acting chair.”
From her perch as President and CEO of A+E Networks, Dubuc has overseen cable networks A&E, Lifetime, History, Lifetime Movies, FYI and Viceland as well as digital content and distribution, A+E Studios, A+E Networks International and A&E Indie Films. She spearheaded the rebranding of two networks in her portfolio — Bio, which became FYI, and H2 into Viceland via a joint venture with Vice.
Like Amazon Studios, which searched for a female CEO following the ouster of previous topper Roy Price, Vice also has been embroiled in accusations of sexual harassment and pervasive boy’s club culture. Dubuc, whose talks for the Vice CEO job were first reported by Variety, already has a relationship with the company via A+E Networks and Vice Media’s joint venture, Viceland.
“For nearly 20 years, I have called A+E Networks home and the team has been an extended part of my family,” Dubuc said. “Together, we have had the privilege to build some of the most iconic brands in media. Every step of my career, I have had the opportunity to learn and grow from some of the most inspiring and innovative minds at A+E and in both the creative and business community. I could not be prouder of what we achieved together.
“Anyone who knows me well knows I am an entrepreneur, creator, rebel and disruptor at heart. I have a famous neon sign in my office that blares ‘Who dares wins.’ After 20 years at A+E, the hardest thing will be to leave the people and company I love. But, as a creative executive and leader, and to stay true to my personal mantra, I need my next dare and my next challenge.”
Dubuc had been feeling restless atop A+E Networka, a mid-size group in a basic cable business whose heyday may be in past as networks battle cord-cutting and competition from streaming. Making the job more challenging is the fact that the company has two owners, Disney and Hearst.
This marks a return to active duty for Raven, who had navigated A+E Networks’ challenges well and mentored Dubuc for a rare handoff between two female CEOs of a major media company when Dubuc took over in 2014.
“Nancy and I have worked together for almost 20 years, and I have seen the tremendous accomplishments and innovation she has brought to A+E – from its creative content to attracting award-winning talent and the digital and studio businesses she has nurtured,” Raven said. “A+E is a special place, with extraordinary and talented people. I look forward to helping the board and leading the talented A+E teams during this transition.”