Two top MTV Networks executives said they were leaving on Thursday--among the highest-profile exits since the executive shuffle at parent company Viacom, in which CEO Tom Freston was fired.
MTVN president/COO Michael Wolf is leaving the company, abandoning his first job as a corporate executive a little more than a year after taking it and ending months of speculation that he was set to leave. Separately, Nicole Browning, president of affiliate sales/marketing, is ending her more than two-decade tenure with the company.
The pair are some of the most senior executives to leave since Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone axed the company's CEO Tom Freston in September and replaced him with hand-picked successors Phillipe Dauman and Thomas Dooley. Insiders at the company had been buzzing that Wolf was on his way out since then.
Wolf, a former management consultant at McKinsey & Co. and Booz Allen, is leaving in February. He joined MTVN in November 2005 after advising the company as a client for years. MTV hired Wolf based on his reputation for looking where a company needs to be and organizing divisions to get there. But although he had insight into MTVN's worldwide operations, he lacked real-world management skills.
Wolf said Thursday that he had planned to be at the company for only a finite period of time and is leaving on his own volition. In a Q&A with B&C at the time of his hiring, he elaborated on many goals for MTVN.
"We accomplished everything we set out to do together," said MTVN Chairman/CEO Judy McGrath in a statement, listing Wolf's accomplishments as restructuring the company's ad and affiliate sales/marketing businesses and expanding its distribution to reach emerging platforms.
"Michael completed a strong and actionable long-range plan, and brought some of our best and brightest minds in to the company," she said. "We know he has a lot to offer the media industry as a whole, and wish him all the best as he moves on to his next adventure."
Browning, a loyal company veteran for 23 years, has been negotiating her exit for months. After moving up the ranks in MTVN's affiliate sales division, she has overseen the distribution for MTV Networks' stable of cable channels, most recently renegotiating their carriage on Time Warner. With most of the channels' carriage agreements not due for renewal until 2008, Browning and McGrath thought now would be a appropriate time for her to leave.
MTVN has yet to find replacements for either of them.
The departures come as Viacom's movie studio, Paramount, announced today it was parting with its president of just 18 months, Gail Berman. The studio said it will not replace her, leaving as its top dog Brad Grey, another Viacom executive insiders thought might get cut after Redstone fired Freston.
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