Ben Sherwood To Exit Disney-ABC Following Fox Acquisition

By Nellie Andreeva, Dawn C. Chmielewski

ben sherwood

We are about a week or so away from Disney unveiling the names of top 21st Century Fox executives who would be joining the company following the acquisition of key Fox assets; we hear an announcement of the company’s post-acquisition structure expected may be coming on Oct.1. With 21st Century Fox president Peter Rice’s deal said to be all but done and Fox TV Group chairman Dana Walden negotiating hers, the first major Disney-ABC departure, which had been in the works for weeks, has been confirmed.

Disney-ABC TV Group Ben Sherwood is not expected to continue in the combined company. The move had been fully expected with Rice and Walden coming on board in top TV roles — Walden has been in talks to oversee key divisions that Sherwood currently does, which would include the combined 20th Century Fox TV-ABC Studios, under Rice, who would be heading all TV content. (We hear that there are conversations about Walden possibly getting some Hulu oversight, which may have led  to the delay in her deal.)

There had been discussions about keeping Sherwood, who has a good relationship with Disney CEO Bob Iger, in another role post-merger related to his extensive background in news, especially if Fox, backed by Disney, took control over Sky, including Sky News. But even before Fox lost out on Sky today, rumors were rampant that Sherwood would not be staying on after the merger. Word is that, after considering an offer to return to his old area of news and non-fiction, he has opted to depart. Sherwood, who has kept vey low profile lately, is a year into a four-year contract, which runs through mid-2021, so he would be paid the remainder of his deal.

Sherwood already has been rumored as a possible successor of embattled NBC News chairman Andy Lack though I hear there have been no conversations, and it is unclear whether that would be feasible given the standard six-month non-compete he would have after leaving Disney. And, after building ABC News, I hear it is not considered likely for Sherwood to quickly switch teams and join a rival news organization, especially as he is leaving Disney on good terms.

It is possible that Sherwood returns to writing — he is an author of several best-selling books, including The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud, which was made into a movie — or focuses on creative/entrepreneurial endeavors.

Also expected to be going over to Disney-Fox after the acquisition is completed are FX Networks CEO John Landgraf and Nat Geo CEO Courteney Monroe. The situation is fluid with Fox TV Group chairman Gary Newman who was most recently tipped to be staying at New Fox for the near future. (There previously were rumors that he may leave or get a production deal.)

Disney named Sherwood to succeed Anne Sweeney as president of Disney/ABC Television Group in 2014. Before being elevated to the top TV job he had been serving as president of ABC News since December of 2010, where he was credited with turning around ABC’s morning program, Good Morning America. 
Sherwood declined comment and referred inquires to Disney, which did not respond to Deadline’s requests for comment.

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