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Aspire GM Paul Butler Departing Network

Aspire general manager Paul Butler is leaving the Earvin "Magic" Johnson-founded network, executives said Friday.

Butler, who has helmed the service since its launch in June 2012, is departing for personal reasons, according to the network. "Paul expressed a strong need to move home and spend more time with his family; and family always comes first," said Johnson.

Under his tenure, the African-American targeted network -- which launched as one of four independent, minority-owned networks selected for broad distribution by Comcast as part of the Federal Communications Commission-imposed conditions on its acquisition of NBCUniversal – grew to more than 21 million viewers while launching several original content such as talk show Exhale and its ABFF Independent series.

Johnson in a statement said the following:

Today, May 15, 2015, will be Paul Butler’s last day with ASPiRE where he has served as General Manager of the network since its launch in June 2012.  Paul expressed a strong need to move home and spend more time with his family; and family always comes first.

Under his leadership, we have grown the network to more than 21 million subscribers, produced high quality original programming, built the network as a platform for the next generation of African-American creative talent and established valuable and strategic partnerships with advertisers, affiliates and organizations. Among these partnership - the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), The White House Initiative on HBCUs and the Billion Dollar Roundtable have all been very critical to our success. On behalf of everyone at ASPiRE and Magic Johnson Enterprises, I thank Paul for his commitment and passion and wish him the best.

For all his accomplishments, perhaps the most important thing Paul did was to build a great team that has the energy, talent and creativity to continue our mission.  While we will miss Paul, we don’t expect ASPiRE to miss a beat. With the great team Paul assembled and help from our partners at UP, we will continue to grow, thrive and bring a distinct voice to the television landscape.  We wish Paul and his family all the best.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.