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Lifetime’s Black Fades Out

As Carole Black ends her six-year stint as CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services today, the search for her successor continues.

Sources familiar with the situation said last week that the list of candidates has been narrowed, but it was unclear when an announcement would be made.

With Black — who was originally slated to depart on March 31 — now making her exit on March 21, observers are wondering if her successor will be appointed in time for an introduction at the National Show in San Francisco from April 3 to 5.

Officials at The Walt Disney Co. declined to comment, while those at Hearst Corp., Lifetime’s other owner, couldn’t be reached for comment.

There’s been much speculation about what’s holding up the search for Black’s replacement, especially since she announced her departure in November, which would appear to have left plenty of time to fill her shoes. But sources said the search was extended longer than expected in order to take the time to fully interview the crop of prospective candidates who turned up.

Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney ABC Television Networks Group and co-chairman of Media Networks, and Hearst director John Conomikes are leading the search to find Black’s replacement. In fact, they were the ones who recruited Black for Lifetime.

The network threw a going-away party for Black last Tuesday in a conference room at the channel’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan. The fete was catered by Dean & DeLuca, with the centerpiece of the celebration a cake iced with the word “Grazie” — Italian for thanks. That goodbye was in reference to Black’s upcoming trip to Italy.

One party attendee said Black thanked all the attendees, and had a personal message for every individual there. A crowd of roughly 200 employees turned out for the emotional gathering.

Black didn’t offer any update on her replacement at the meeting, the participant said.

Among the names who’ve surfaced as candidates for Black’s job: Deborah Blackwell, senior vice president and general manager of SoapNet; and Rick Haskins, Lifetime’s general manager in charge of marketing.

Kent Gibbons contributed to this report.