After nearly eight years at Univision, Lee plans to start an independent production company. Patricio Wills, an exec with Univision’s Mexican partner, Televisa, will take over Lee’s content duties.
The move is another dose of corporate drama at Univision, which has hit some turbulence in recent months. After board members opted to pull a planned IPO and engage a consultant to help guide strategic decisions, they installed Vincent Sadusky as CEO in the spring helm of the privately held company, replacing Randy Falco. Entertainment president Lourdes Diaz recently departed for Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios TV division.
Once a distant runner-up in the ratings, archrival Telemundo has narrowed the gap considerably, consistently winning some time periods. The NBC-owned network has pulled big ratings in recent weeks with its exclusive Spanish-language rights to soccer’s World Cup.
Lee earned multiple promotions during his tenure and was a key exec with digital bona fides during a time when the company launched multiplatform network Fusion and also acquired multiple digital properties. He also founded Story House Entertainment, which backed Netflix co-productions such as El Chapo and the 2018 Sundance audience award-winning documentary Science Fair. New management has recently announced its plans to shop many of the digital assets run by Lee and brought in under Falco, including The Onion.
Lee initiated the first-ever global pilot season in Spanish-language television for Mexico and the U.S. and led Univision News before gaining oversight of all content in 2017. Daniel Coronell will remain President of News, the company said.
“I want to thank Isaac for leading Univision’s content team with integrity and courage and helping elevate and position Univision in mainstream American media,” Haim Saban, the Chairman of the Board of UCI, said in a statement. “He understood the relevance that Univision has for Hispanic America and served the audience well. Isaac has vision and knows how to execute.”
Lee said, “I want to thank my extraordinarily talented and hard-working colleagues at Univision, as well as Haim and the entire Board, for all the support I have received in my nearly eight years at UCI.”
Variety had the first word of Lee’s departure.
Here is the email Lee sent today to the Univision staff:
After nearly 8 years, I have decided to resign from Univision. I am very proud of the work we have done to serve the Latino community in the United States. It has been one of the greatest privileges in my professional life.
I am, and always will be, a journalist at heart. I work to inform the audience and to advocate on its behalf in the face of powerful interests. In that sense, there are few better places to work than at Univision. Whereas trust in media has collapsed everywhere, Univision’s audience trusts us. Our audience depends on us. At a time of unprecedented attacks on Latinos in the U.S., Univision is more important than ever.
When I arrived at Univision in 2011, I wanted to create the best news department in the country. I wanted Univision Noticias to break original stories, do investigative journalism, and build a digital strategy that would reach an entire new audience of young Latinos. I wanted Jorge Ramos to be recognized everywhere in the United States as the household name he is amongst our core audience. Much has been done to achieve those goals. We built an award-winning investigative unit, a first-class digital team, a documentary unit, and an entirely new English-language cable channel.
Once I assumed responsibilities for our entertainment programming, we re-worked our relationship with Televisa to ensure that the content pipeline was strong and that Televisa would continue to produce dramatic, and cutting-edge shows that will attract viewers on both sides of the border.
I could not have done this without the support of Univision’s Board and the help of so many amazing colleagues across Univision with whom I have been privileged to work. I am proud of the results we have achieved. There is no doubt than when something relevant happens, Univision is where Hispanics turn. But most of all, I am proud of the fact that I leave behind a more vibrant, diverse, and courageous company than the one I found.
I have spent a good amount of time with Vince Sadusky over the past nearly two months and I know he understands what the company needs to compete successfully at a time of major disruption in the market place.
Thank you one and all for your support and friendship.