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Ben Sherwood Cold Called Anne Sweeney for ABC News Job

Ben Sherwood and Anne Sweeney
Getty Images

The ABC News president also spars with Tom Brokaw about why he left NBC News in 2002.

How did Ben Sherwood get on Disney/ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney's radar to lead ABC News?

He cold called her.

Not long after David Westin, the longtime ABC News president, informed Sweeney he was leaving, Sherwood dialed Sweeney to introduce himself and share some ideas about how to run the news network, Sweeney told the Sunday New York Times.

Two months later, he called back and asked for a formal interview for the position.

By the middle of November, 30 candidates had been narrowed to five, including Sherwood.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Sweeney told him he had the job.

Sweeney (who topped The Hollywood Reporter's annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 list) told the Times she isn't nervous Sherwood will depart from the job within a few years to write a book or pursue another opportunity, saying his wide-ranging experience is a plus.

She is referring to Sherwood's non-linear career. He has worked as an executive producer on Good Morning America, the No. 2 producer on NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw and taken time off in between to write romantic novels, including Charlie St. Cloud, which was made into a movie starring  Zac Efron and the best-selling The Survivor's Club.

When he wrote a love story called The Man Who Ate the 747, Sam Donaldson (the ABC anchor with whom Sherwood was traveling in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 1992 when their colleague, David Kaplan, was shot by a sniper) tells the Times "I said to him, ‘Ben, what is going on with you? Are you having a midlife crisis?'"

“No one in media takes four years off and comes back,” adds Grace Kahng, a friend of Sherwood. “That has got to really be annoying.”

Sherwood describes his decision to quit NBC News in January 2002: “One of the things about my path is that there are moments where I want to go do something different."

Brokaw remembers it differently:  "He didn’t stay because he didn’t get the No. 1 job at ‘Nightly News,’” he told the Times.

“My recollection and Tom’s are in disagreement," responded Sherwood, who also left GMA after about two years.

“I would watch television, and I would think about the news and talk to the television alone in a room in the way every producer involved in a show does,” he said. “Sometimes my wife would remind me I was alone in the room.”

Sherwood -- who is wed to Imagine Films co-chair Karen Kehela Sherwood -- shrugs off those who criticize him -- and says he never watched the anonymous video posted online several days after his December appointment was announced.

"I also have no idea who put it there,” he said. “All I can say is this is a rough and tumble business. In this culture and age it sort of comes with the territory.”