Anne Sweeney: Incoming ABC News President Ben Sherwood 'Is Here to Lead'

2:37 PM PST 12/03/2010 by Philiana Ng
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Anne Sweeney and Ben Sherwood

"We must be ferociously competitive," the former "Good Morning America" executive producer says.

Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group, announced to a packed ABC News studio Friday morning that Ben Sherwood would be replacing outgoing ABC News president David Westin, and promised that he "is here to lead.”

“This is the greatest building in all of television, and the people who work here are the best in television,” Sherwood, who had served as executive producer of ABC’s Good Morning America from 2004 to 2006, said. It had been years since he was last in the ABC News headquarters. (Watch video of Anne Sweeney's announcement below.)

He added: "It is our mission to think as boldly as possible.”

Westin “gave me the grace of several months to conduct what I found to be a very thorough and very thoughtful search -- and it's actually a search I conducted myself,” Sweeney shared to those present, which, according to ABCNews.com, included Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters. “I was more than encouraged and excited by the passion and the brainpower and the forward motion of this great division. So to say it created pressure is an understatement, and I felt the pressure to replace the outstanding David Westin with someone who could continue his great work and continue the great work of all of you into the future.”

On his decision to exit his post after 13 years at the helm, Westin said it was time to “get off the playing field,” adding that Sherwood’s “deep intelligence” and “restless curiosity” were pivotal in landing him the job.

“He has a burning desire to make this great institution greater,” Westin added.

Sherwood jumped on a red-eye flight to make it in time for the early morning announcement in New York. He first began working at ABC News in 1989. In addition to working at Primetime and Good Morning America, Sherwood also spent time at NBC News for a short period.

“Ben is, by all rights, one of us — ours, actually,” Sweeney said of his past experience at ABC News.

Sherwood added that he believed his long history with the company will be beneficial for him. “I learned a tremendous amount during my years here. Together we can take this news division to new heights,” he said.

Sherwood said the “massive changes in news” make it imperative to continue being competitive. “We have to find a way to differentiate ourselves, innovate and find a new way of connecting to our audience. We must be ferociously competitive,” he said, making a point to note that ABC News Digital will play a major role in this.

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