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Trade Groups Seek New Execs

If you're looking to run a trade association, there are jobs aplenty in the television industry. The National Association of Television Programming Executives (NATPE) and the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB) are looking for presidents. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is seeking a chief lobbyist. And the Syndicated Network Television Association (SNTA) is at least making noises about looking for a new president, although the current one, Gene DeWitt, insists he's not stepping down despite reports to the contrary.

NATPE's top slot came open when Bruce Johansen stepped down after the association's annual confab in New Orleans last January. After a decade at the helm, he struggled through his final year while syndicators fought each other on how NATPE ought to be positioned and convention attendance plummeted as station consolidation and other factors kept attendees away.

Johansen earns $540,000 a year, but it's unlikely the next president will come in at exactly that level. A NATPE spokesman says the next president will earn a salary "commensurate with his or her experience," as well as with market conditions.

Top contenders for the job continue to be former Emmis Communications executive Madelyn Bonnot, former Columbia TriStar Television President Barry Thurston and former USA Networks COO Rick Feldman. NATPE's search committee plans to have a single name for the board of directors to consider when they meet on April 23.

Also after 10 years, CAB President Joe Ostrow is retiring. He had planned to depart at the end of March, but CAB has yet to tap a successor so, last week, Ostrow extended his contract through May.

Leading candidates for the $420,000-a-year position appear to be Erica Gruen, formerly of the Food Network, and Michael Lotito, formerly the CEO for media-management firm Mindport.

At NAB, Jim May, the highly successful head of government affairs, left in January to head the Air Transport Association. The leading contender to replace him appears to be Dave Marventano, Republican staff director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Others with their hat in the ring are John Orlando, acting chief lobbyist; Marsha MacBride, chief of staff for FCC Chairman Michael Powell; and Robert Giese, former lobbyist for Chris-Craft Industries.

SNTA's DeWitt is a different story. A published report suggests that he is headed out the door. But he says otherwise.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "There's a regime change going at the SNTA not caused by any invasion or artillery or anything like that. ... If I were to leave here it would be pretty much my decision because of the way my contract is written.

"Any time you work for a group of people," he added, "some are going to be happy, and some aren't." He dismissed reports that he wanted SNTA to buy out his contract. "That sounds like somebody else trying to make a story to encourage me to leave. If I want to leave, I'll leave. I don't really need the money."

Two weeks ago, reports surfaced that he was considering leaving, but SNTA board members say he has not been released from his three-year contract and hasn't submitted a resignation.

Sources say that, six weeks before SNTA's first annual advertising conference, the board of directors, unhappy with DeWitt's performance, held an emergency meeting to determine whether to keep him.

"SNTA has not terminated Gene, nor have we had any conversations with Gene about separation," said Howard Levy, chairman of the SNTA board and executive vice president of ad sales for Buena Vista Television. Levy recently took over as chairman from Marc Hirsch, president of Paramount Advertiser Services. Reportedly, Hirsch and DeWitt did not get along, and the board wants to see if DeWitt works better under Levy. DeWitt last week called Levy "very charming."