The London-based ABC Studios International team led by Managing Director Keli Lee has been let go as Disney Television Studios reevaluates its UK presence and overall international strategy. In all, four staffers were impacted, including Lee, sources said.
For the time being, ongoing development and production matters for ABC Studios International will be handled from ABC Studios’ Burbank headquarters. A rep for Disney TV Studios declined comment.
Lee left her post as EVP Casting for ABC Entertainment Group in 2015 and relocated to London to lead the charge in ABC Studios’ international expansion as Managing Director, International Content and Talent.
At ABC Studios International, Lee spearheaded two major series, the Australian Harrow, starring Ioan Gruffudd, produced in partnership with Hoodlum Entertainment, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Screen Queensland, which has been renewed for a third season and airs on Hulu in the US, and the Poppy Montgomery starrer Reef Break, which was picked up by ABC in the US.
The move comes about seven months after the close of the Disney-Fox merger created Disney TV Studios, a mega TV studio umbrella, with ABC Studios/ABC Signature joining 20th Century Fox TV and Fox 21 TV Studios. Since then, Craig Hunegs was named as President of Disney TV Studios, and 20th TV’s Jonnie Davis became President of ABC Studios. The two have been examining the ABC Studios’ operations, including its London outpost. The closing of the UK office is part of that reassessment.
A Disney-ABC veteran, Lee previously led all casting and talent deal negotiations for the ABC Television Network and ABC Studios. Series under her oversight included Modern Family, Scandal, Once Upon a Time, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., How to Get Away With Murder, Lost, and Grey’s Anatomy.
As head of casting based in Los Angeles, Lee also created and produced ABC Discovers, a series of landmark initiatives, with a globally focused creative talent recruiting program. It has served as a launching pad for talent, including Lupita Nyong’o, Chadwick Boseman, Jesse Williams, Randall Park and Dania Ramirez. She subsequently expanded the initiative to the UK while she was there.
Lee’s departure was first reported by Variety.