Howard Kurtzman, President of Business Operations for 20th Century Fox Television and head of business and legal affairs for over two decades, will step down in June.
Carolyn Cassidy, 20th TV’s President of Creative Affairs who has been partnered with Kurtzman, will be named President of 20th Century Fox TV at that time. In light of Kurtzman’s pending departure, 20th TV will name a new head of business affairs who will report into Cassidy.
Kurtzman, who had privately discussed retirement plans for the last couple of years, has been one of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment Chairman Dana Walden’s most trusted associates for the past two decades, first at Fox and most recently at Disney. Since the completion of the Disney acquisition of Fox assets, including 20th TV, Kurtzman also has been working closely with Disney Television Studios President Craig Hunegs.
“Two years ago, Howard came to Gary Newman and me to say he had decided it was time to retire,” she said today. “We begged him to stay for a year, as we were not ready to consider what the studio would look like without his leadership. One year later, Craig and I asked (begged) him to postpone his retirement by yet another year — this time to help coordinate the integration of 20th Century Fox Television into The Walt Disney Company — and he graciously agreed.
“Howard is an extraordinary leader, strategist, colleague and friend. Working with him has been one of the true highlights of my career and that is a sentiment which is shared by every executive, creator and representative who has interacted with him over the past three decades.”
Kurtzman has served as president of Business Operations for 20th Century Fox TV since 2014 when he was partnered with then President of Creative Affairs Jonnie Davis. During their tenure, the pair oversaw Dan Fogelman’s hugely popular and critically acclaimed series This Is Us. When Davis was named president of ABC Studios last summer, Kurtzman stayed on to partner with Cassidy, the newly named President of Creative Affairs, and has recently closed 20th TV overall deals with Fogelman, Liz Meriwether, Steve Levitan, Lizzie & Wendy Molyneux, Saladin Patterson and Kay Oyegun, among many others.
Prior to being named president, Kurtzman served as EVP, Business and Legal Affairs at the studio, running the business affairs and legal affairs teams for more than two decades. During his tenure, 20th Century Fox TV produced such noteworthy programs as the global franchise 24, How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Family Guy, Ally McBeal, The Practice, Bob’s Burgers, This Is Us, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the longest-running prime-time scripted series ever, The Simpsons.
“20th has been much more than my employer for all these years,” said Kurtzman. “It’s also been an incredibly vibrant and exciting place to work, where we accomplished so many great things together, from Modern Family to Family Guy, Glee, 24 and most recently This Is Us, to name only a few. Those close to me know that I have been talking about stepping down for quite some time, and I am so grateful to Dana and Craig for their generosity through this process. This career has been an incredible ride – an E-ticket ride, in fact.”
Kurtzman came to TCFTV from New World Entertainment, where he had served since 1995 as EVP, Business and Legal Affairs. New World was purchased in 1997 by News Corp, the parent company of 20th Century Fox TV. Prior to New World, Kurtzman worked for 12 years at Stephen J. Cannell Productions, rising to SVP, Business and Legal Affairs. He had previously served as director, Television Business Affairs, at MCA. He began his career as an associate at the law firm of Irwin and Rowan.
“Howard is a hall of fame TV executive who has been responsible for some of the most impressive and groundbreaking deals in the business,” Hunegs said. “He’s a great leader and mentor and we’ll miss his terrific sense of humor.”
In a thank you note to staff, Kurtzman reminisced on his decades at the studio and mentioned a number of current and former colleagues with whom he worked closely over the years, including his wife Sharon Klein, EVP of casting for Disney Television Studios and FX Entertainment; Walden; Gary Newman, now an executive partner at Attention Capital; Jennifer Salke, now head of Amazon Studios; and her husband Bert Salke, President of Disney’s Fox 21 TV studio. You can read it in full below.
As you’ve heard that with Dana and Craig’s blessing and my deepest gratitude, I will be setting my retirement date for this June. Many of you know this is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and now I feel the time is right.
20th has been much more than my employer for all these years, it has been my home. So many of you have become family members, both literally and in every other sense. Of course I met Sharon here, and Dana and Gary, Jennifer and Bert, and so many others who became not only terrific bosses and trusted colleagues but also my most treasured friends.
We’ve had such a run together, from “Modern Family” to “Family Guy,” “Glee,” “24” and most recently “This Is Us” to name only a very few. What an incredible ride! We are all lucky to be working in this golden age of television together, and I am especially grateful to have shared this time with you, the best executives, colleagues and friends in the business.
I am especially grateful to Dana and Craig for their generosity and support, and to Jonnie and Carolyn, two of the best partners I could have wished for.
As for me, I just want everyone to know that while I may be leaving a job that has nourished me these many years, I am really looking forward to retirement. We all have lists of things we’d like to do or try if only we had the time, and I am lucky to have the luxury of tackling a few of mine.
My departure date is still months away, so this is not “goodbye.” More a “thank you,” and a moment to say that I truly believe the best is yet to come, for all of us.