Departing Viacom Group President Doug Herzog Talks “Helluva Run”, “Unsettling” Media Disruption, Asks To “Keep Light On”


In an internal memo, Doug Herzog announced his January 12 departure as Viacom’s Music and Entertainment Group president. In a nostalgia-filled, highlights-reel portion of the email, Herzog lists some of the biggest shows and franchises launched while he was at the company in his multiple tours of duty, including The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, South Park, the VMAs and Chappelle’s Show, which ended abruptly when creator and star Dave Chappelle left for South Africa.

Herzog also talks about the “enormous” media changes and disruption that could be “unsettling” and gives a vote of confidence to the vision and leadership of new Viacom CEO Robert Bakish, who took over Herzog’s division.

And since he once left Viacom only to come back a few years later, Herzog again is leaving the door ajar. Here is the memo:

Hey everyone.

I have some news to share today. I will be stepping down from my post here at Viacom effective January 12th.

Thus ends a 25 year professional journey, and wild ride spanning seven networks, four decades, three Daily Show hosts, over two separate tours of duty, and one joint venture.

It all started innocently enough in 1984 when I was just 25. I arrived at the midtown MTV offices very early one September morning only to find the lobby completely dark. Not one light on and not a soul there. Thankfully Judy McGrath arrived soon after the lights went on and showed me to my office.

I was given a front row seat at the center of pop culture and an opportunity to redefine it a few times along the way. In no time, it seems I was surrounded by a seemingly endless universe of creative geniuses, rock stars, politicians, supermodels, heavyweight champs, comedians, street hustlers, and media moguls. And that was just one night at the VMAs!

We found Jon Stewart in an MTV conference room during a game show run-through, lost Dave Chappelle in South Africa and later found Trevor Noah there, we discovered Matt Stone and Trey Parker on VHS and Pauley Shore in Daytona Beach. (So yeah, that one’s on me too.) At MTV News we impacted a presidential race (legally), I got to pump the hand of a POTUS or two, and laughed out loud when Comedy Central unwittingly roasted a future one. I could do this all day.

Along the way, we launched countless hit shows, staged ground breaking tent pole events, threw some epic parties all the while establishing a unique creative culture fueling our awesome brands. Most importantly we connected deeply with our audiences in a way no one else ever had.

It was a helluva run, and I would wish it on anyone. I loved every minute of it.

As a new year dawns enormous change and disruption dominate the media landscape and the world at large. I know it can be unsettling. But trust me, you should be excited and invigorated by it. Reinventing the brands and innovating with content are the great core strengths of this company. Bob is already bringing true leadership and vision to Viacom. He is a big believer in the power of these brands across all platforms. I promise you are in very good hands with him, as well as your tremendous brand leaders.

The best ideas and best people win every time, and you have both right here.

And if content is indeed king, and brands its queen, then you represent a powerful kingdom poised to return Viacom where, once more, it will be the envy of its peers.

When I speak to anyone interested in this business, I always tell them: “You gotta work hard, you gotta be smart, you gotta be talented, and you gotta be a little lucky.”

I consider myself a very lucky man. Lucky to have worked so long at a place filled with amazing and talented people. I leave here enormously proud of everything we accomplished together.

I want to thank all my many great colleagues from over the years, including Tom Freston, Judy and everyone from the original MTV days. And of course the current M&E team: John, Kassie, Tanya, Jason, Kent, Chris, Kevin, Patrick, Whitney, Dave, Dan and Alex. These are some of the finest individuals I have ever had the opportunity to work with. I am so grateful for their friendship, council and support. It means the world to me.

And finally, to all of you at the M&E Group. I want to thank you for everything over the years. I cannot tell you how appreciative I have been for all your hard work, creativity, and support. Your passion for the brands and content inspired and motivated me every day.

I’m not gonna lie, there are so many things I will miss. Like the excitement of seeing a great pilot for the first time, or the thrill of a killer new spot. But mostly I will miss all of you, walking these halls and feeding off the unmistakable energy that defines this culture. It was my great privilege and honor to lead, collaborate, and create with you for so long. I will never forget it.
Many of you know I am just a camp counselor at heart. I tried to bring a little of that to the workplace every day. Lead the group, play to win, and have fun doing it.

For now, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next chapter brings. I’m excited and little uncertain, and that feels about right.

This company has been home to me for a long time. So I will be rooting for all of you, my “homies”, from wherever I may be, and wishing you all the best.

So take care of your brands, take care of your franchises, but most importantly, take care of one another. I look forward to seeing you all somewhere down the road. And remember . . . keep a light on.


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