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Bertelsmann Digital Head Thomas Hesse Resigns

Thomas Hesse - P 2011
Courtesy of Bertelsmann
Thomas Hesse

The executive, who headed up corporate development and new businesses at the German media giant, will step down at the end of the year.

Thomas Hesse, the executive who helped guide German media giant Bertelsmann in its recent aggressive expansion into the digital world, will be leaving the company.

Bertelsmann on Friday confirmed media reports that Hesse would depart, stepping down from his position as president of corporate development and new businesses the end of this year. He will also resign his position on Bertelsmann's executive board, though he will remain a consultant to the board.

Hesse will not be replaced on the executive board, the company said. Bertelsmann chairman and CEO Thomas Rabe will take over Hesse's areas of responsibility.

Bertelsmann said Hesse was leaving on his own request to “pursue new professional opportunities in the digital business sector.”

Formerly a top executive at Sony BMG, Hesse moved to Bertelsmann following the 2004 merger of Sony Music with Bertelsmann subsidiary BMG.

Managing Bertelsmann's digital operations, Hesse helped the new media transformation of the group's massive old media operations, which include book publishers Penguin and Random House, European broadcast giant RTL Group and production company FremantleMedia. This included the acquisition earlier this year of a controlling stake in Canadian YouTube video aggregator BroadbandTV for $36 million.

Rabe has made it clear that Bertelsmann's main challenge in the coming years will be to shift from slow-growth traditional media in its core territories in the U.S. and Europe to digital operations and high-growth regions, including Asia and South America.

“With his deep understanding of digital business models, Thomas Hesse was particularly instrumental in Bertelsmann’s transformation to digital,” said Rabe. “Hesse established new digital forums and processes that have significantly advanced the level of expertise and knowledge transfer at Bertelsmann."

He added: "He also contributed the experience of his long years in the music business to the building of the new BMG. I regret that he is leaving, but at the same time I am pleased that he will continue to serve the executive board in a consultative capacity. On behalf of the entire executive board, I would like to thank Thomas Hesse for the valuable impetus he has provided and wish him continued personal and professional success.”

In a statement, Hesse said he was “enormously grateful” to Bertelsmann for “giving me the opportunity to help shape the new group strategy and the transformation to digital.”